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Free Will vs. Determinism.

Free Will or Determinism?


  • Total voters
    43

Julius_Van_Der_Beak

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I find the existence of free will implausible. My reasons are as follows:

Mind-body dualism, that is, the belief that mind is something separate from the body, seems implausible in the light of this. The man had a brain injury, and his entire personality changed.

Given this, what mechanism could one expect to find in nature that would explain free will? I suppose at this point people like to invoke quantum mechanics, but I don't understand quantum mechanics and I don't know if the people doing that do, either.

Free-will is every bit as unfalsifiable as a belief in God. Nobody can prove free will doesn't exist through empirical means that can be replicated, so it should go out the window, if God goes out the window because of such a standard.

Moreover, personal experience and analysis, while not perhaps verifiable, suggests that people always make their choices based on past inputs, whether they are aware of it or not. There is no randomness to it. There is a certain level of predictability, although I should qualify this by saying that much of the time, when we interact with each other, we are interacting on the basis of incomplete information. Because the information is incomplete, the choices appear more nebulous and somewhat "random."
 

Qlip

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I predicted that I would predict that you would post this thread.
 

Magic Poriferan

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Can I say that I don't think free will exists but that I think the cosmos may fundamentally be probabilistic rather than deterministic?
 

Passacaglia

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Given this, what mechanism could one expect to find in nature that would explain free will? I suppose at this point people like to invoke quantum mechanics, but I don't understand quantum mechanics and I don't know if the people doing that do, either.
As I understand the 'God does indeed play dice with the universe' argument, which admittedly isn't an exhaustive understanding, I don't think it actually holds. Like many other aspects of the universe, we simply don't have the means of predicting exactly where a given particle will be at a given time. Much like you don't know the outcome of a flipped coin until it lands, even though theoretically you could predict the outcome if you knew the exact coin mass and balance, the thumb-force, the trajectory, the distance to surface, the bounce coefficient, etc..

Free-will is every bit as unfalsifiable as a belief in God. Nobody can prove free will doesn't exist through empirical means that can be replicated, so it should go out the window, if God goes out the window because of such a standard.
Ironically, I think it's easier to argue determinism from a religious perspective. Well, at least a religious perspective involving omnipotent and omniscient deities. ;)
 

Julius_Van_Der_Beak

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Ironically, I think it's easier to argue determinism from a religious perspective. Well, at least a religious perspective involving omnipotent and omniscient deities. ;)


Moreover, some religions believe in predestination, and some believe in free will, so it really has nothing to do with religion vs. atheism. The important question is which is a more plausible description of reality.
 

Magic Poriferan

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Yes, but I'd like a lot more background on that.

As you pointed out a little bit already, there are problems with free will at a rather high order. There are biological and environmental problems. There is no reason to believe, and an abundance of evidence to not believe, that the mind is based on some kind of force separate from physical form. We may not fully understand how, but we can guess that every single thing about your mind has something to do with a physical configuration in your nervous system. Even acquired information, like culture, probably works that way. An other person generates stimulus, you perceive stimulus, you rearrange something in your nervous system in response to that perception. That is the process of you learning something from somebody else. Now, if we consider that this happens from the day you are born, then external factors are rearranging your brain before its even fully developed. This creates an interesting situation where you are not in control of how you develop. You don't necessarily control your beliefs or your desires. So even if we accepted the premise that you had the power to choose whatever you want to do (itself problematic), there's still the problem that you do not choose what you wanted. What you wanted was externally given to you. With that being the case, can we say that freedom of choice really means anything?

But, like I said, that relates to biology and such. All of this is reducible to fundamental processes of the universe (really low order stuff). Are those actually deterministic? I don't know. Determinism is the intuitive answer, but the cosmos may be fundamentally probabilistic. I've thought a lot about this, and I don't feel like I can come up with an answer. The thing is, for human purposes, any situation in which there is imperfect information has to be treated as probabilistic. For us, all real phenomena is understood through imperfect information, so pragmatically speaking it's all probabilistic. But is the cosmos actually, ontologically deterministic? We can't tell for that reason. If it is, it will still all look probabilistic anyhow, while the fact that we know it will look probabilistic regardless does not rule out the fact that it might really be probabilistic.

Either way, when it gets to the level where we are talking about free will, we will have layered on so many constraints that are more foundational than us, that free will seems implausible.
 

Lark

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Can I say that I don't think free will exists but that I think the cosmos may fundamentally be probabilistic rather than deterministic?

I believe the cosmos is totally deterministic but that human kind are in a special position of being capable of comprehending it.

Anyone who would suggest the universe is anything other than deterministic will have problem with cause and effect.
 

Magic Poriferan

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I believe the cosmos is totally deterministic but that human kind are in a special position of being capable of comprehending it.

We only comprehend it so much. Probably very little all things considered. And as I said, while it is intuitive to think of it as deterministic, are information does not allow us to actually have a deterministic understanding of the universe even if it is deterministic.

And I'm not sure how special our position is. I'm guessing there are many, many things in this universe that can do what we do. And what that is may only be tangential to what we could actually call reality.

Anyone who would suggest the universe is anything other than deterministic will have problem with cause and effect.

Probabilism doesn't have a problem with saying something will probably cause something else.

Of course, the other trick about cause and effect, is how much of it is a matter of perception.

At any rate, it's untestable and there's nothing we can do about any of it either way. So that's why I think the agnostic position is the correct one.
 

GarrotTheThief

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whether my habits lead me to hell or whether it's fate...I do not care...I only know that fire burns, burns, burns and that heaven is a place with gates as high as mountains.
 

Luke O

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Oh and the alternative universes we create when we decide to do this or that. Like the one where I didn't reply to this thread :D
 

indra

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but I don't understand quantum mechanics

I have a religious acquaintance who denies evolution yet cannot rehash the most basic tenants, by which I find he deserves not one iota of the right to say he wishes to know the face of god
 

sprinkles

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Do you think I was determined to post this video?


Do you think someone was determined to make this video?
 

ygolo

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We've had several threads about this topic (roughly in chronological order)...
http://www.typologycentral.com/forums/philosophy-and-spirituality/1810-free-exist.html

http://www.typologycentral.com/foru...lity/4313-free-determinism-compatibilism.html

http://www.typologycentral.com/foru...e-bf-skinner-free-determinism-liberalism.html

http://www.typologycentral.com/forums/philosophy-and-spirituality/64966-free-determined.html

Edit:
So as to contribute more than just a plastering of links you could have found on the bottom of the page, I'll add my own response. I am a bit of a compatibilist. I don't particular like categorizing myself with these philosophical labels. I'm not joining some party for a particular ideology regarding free will.

What I believe is the most important ideas of free-will is those concerning agency and the agent itself.

Scientists have developed models of agents that behave according to particular patterns in complex adaptive systems. These agents, from the modelers perspective, are doing exactly what is expected. Randomness may have been programmed into the agents' behaviors, but does that mean that their behaviors are no longer determined?

Moreover, the agents interacting within the system may create higher level behavior that is unexpected or unpredictable.

What does it mean to be "determined", without predictability? What does it mean if even if somehow we could start the process back to the same exact "initial conditions" the behavior is still unpredictable?

From the perspective of the agent, it will get certain inputs (including perhaps some random ones and ones "internally" generated). It then "chooses" a behavior in response to those inputs. From the agent's perspective, does it matter that it's framework for making a choice was one that was already programmed into it?

If we step back, and look at ourselves as agents in this massively complex system, with our own past histories, genetic programming, psychological conditioning, and basic capabilities. Even if we are acting only according to our "programming" (perhaps with some randomness thrown in), are we acting on our will? or are we merely doing what is in our nature at the moment (even if nature largely based on past nurturing)?

For us at least, we have the perception of choice, and what does it mean to "choose" outside of that perception anyways? "Will" seems like one of those things that is inherently subjective. Talking about it's "existence" outside of the subjective context of the agent doing the choosing seems nonsensical to me. But, I may be missing something fundamental.
 

Frosty

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Although through curcumstances you might be less likely do do or consider doing something, but at the end of the day I believe choices are still yours to make. Free will
 

Siúil a Rúin

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I find the existence of free will implausible. My reasons are as follows:

Mind-body dualism, that is, the belief that mind is something separate from the body, seems implausible in the light of this. The man had a brain injury, and his entire personality changed.

Given this, what mechanism could one expect to find in nature that would explain free will? I suppose at this point people like to invoke quantum mechanics, but I don't understand quantum mechanics and I don't know if the people doing that do, either.

Free-will is every bit as unfalsifiable as a belief in God. Nobody can prove free will doesn't exist through empirical means that can be replicated, so it should go out the window, if God goes out the window because of such a standard.

Moreover, personal experience and analysis, while not perhaps verifiable, suggests that people always make their choices based on past inputs, whether they are aware of it or not. There is no randomness to it. There is a certain level of predictability, although I should qualify this by saying that much of the time, when we interact with each other, we are interacting on the basis of incomplete information. Because the information is incomplete, the choices appear more nebulous and somewhat "random."
I'm with you on that. Free-will is a theoretical concept and unfalsifiable. We can prove definitively that some degree of determinism is at work in human choice and it is also possible that we are entirely deterministic.

Considering the possibility that we are entirely deterministic, merely observing the cause-and-effect processes of our lives and genetics, increases my compassion for everyone. Even the evil tyrant can draw a degree of cautioned sympathy if you see him/her as a Being observing the process of being a tyrant. It makes it easier to forgive others.

As someone who overanalyzes everything, I've also been amazed to see how many of my own inexplicable choices (and the splicable ones) can be traced to my formative years. It's kinda spooky when you start to look deeply enough into your own psyche and see all the patterns align.

I hope for free-will, but I interact with others based on the greater possibility of determinism driving their choices and behavior. Sometimes I'll even encourage myself or others with the theory of free-will because perhaps it introduces an element into the deterministic system that makes it easier to make a choice outside of previous determined possibilities. It means introducing the idea of a choice going against nature and environment into a system where aligning choices with genetics and environment will only get you a bad result.
 

Mane

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Should you go for Chinese or pizza? Throw a coin and let it decide. Who made that choice? Was that freewill? Are you the coin or are you a person controlled by one? Are you the unpredictable winds blowing around coin and shaping it's fall? It's the same problem with quantum mechanics, the same with a soul. Freewill is fundamentally about the displacement of the self, like a more personal version of god of the gaps. But all these thoughts experiments, and the way we've rationalized free will throughout the years, kind of tell you something. We try to make sense of freewill by empowering something to govern us in a way we can't predict or know how it works.

The essential experience we are trying to rationalize with freewill is not knowing why we do something. It's what we experience before the coin falls to the ground and we've seen which way is up, the experience between the time a new question or situation comes up and the moment when we've made a choice and know the answer. We are self aware, but not enough to never be surprised. Later you will add this to the list of things you've done, later it will fit in the patterns you know yourself by or maybe even teach you new patterns, but right now you are making a choice and you aren't sure what it is yet. And that experience is real. Maybe every particle in your brain had no where to go but the place it ended up in, but it didn't get there until it did. You really are processing an experience between multiple perceived possibilities, you are taking a cognitive action of making a choice.

Your will isn't free, but it's your own, and it's choices are real.

I voted Jar jar binks. Because George Lucas had a choice. You didn't have to do it George! You didn't have to do it! :cry:
 
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