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Old 2010-05-16, 23:13   Link #1
Proto
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On the validity of free will

Since immemorial times human beings have been intrigued with the possibilities that the future entrails. We are well aware of the materialness of the past, since it is well engraved in our memories, and on the truthfulness of the present, since it is were we stand. However, more than once different humans throughout history have asked themselves whether our future is an open map for us to decide, whether this future is the logical conclusion of our past that leads us to a single, logical choice, or whether there is a higher flow that decides our fate.

The dictionary defines free will as

Quote:
free will
n
1. (Philosophy)
a. the apparent human ability to make choices that are not externally determined
b. the doctrine that such human freedom of choice is not illusory Compare determinism
c. (as modifier) a free-will decision
The purpose of this thread is for us to reach a consensus of whether free will is something real and attainable for the human being, or whether its just an artificial, philosophical construct with no real basis. Remember to keep this thread civil.This topic has been discussed in the past with bad results, so remember to be courteous and never to do something that you wouldn't do in real life.

I will post my opinion on the matter later during the course of the discussion.
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Old 2010-05-16, 23:25   Link #2
Vexx
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Let me finish rolling my quantum 20-siders and get back to you with the answer(s).
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Old 2010-05-16, 23:28   Link #3
Arbitres
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Free Will isn't determined, because that would be hypocrisy of nothing being determined except the choice and consequence effect.

I believe people have free will, they just choose not to use it. Or sometimes, not for the better. Ruination is easy, just destroy. Subjugating is easier, just live.


My ideology of Free Will sterns from the belief that people

1) Can decide to do what they want, but they have to live with the consequence of their actions.

2) Will always have it, whether or not they believe they do.

Though in question, Free Will is debatable on a scientific level.

3) are born free, it's the things and people around them that shackle them and imprison them.


I am free, but I cannot disclose the possibility of me writing this actually being appointed - it being already determined in other words. I think I can self-determine myself, but I can't rule out the possible chance of me being nothing.

I think that is what we would be without free will: Nothing. We can live, but we aren't 'living' as we should, and that is by our own actions.


A god cannot be benevolent if it lives your life for you. That is my opinion on the matter, feel free to oppose it.


However, away from what I think. Now then...


Free will is the opposite of determinism, in which an individual is free to choose a path before them, in whatever way the please. In the case an individual will be free to choose what, how, or when.


On this, It wouldn't be dependent on the individual alone, but also the choices or circumstances of others. Free Will is linked to other ideology, and can be influenced as such.


There is a belief that Free Will exists, as we have the right to choose what we do. But what happens, or what we do after choosing what to do - is already predetermined. In the end, free Will cannot be validated in a very easy fashion without extensive theories.


I'll leave the rest to Vexx.

Last edited by Arbitres; 2010-05-16 at 23:45.
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Old 2010-05-17, 00:01   Link #4
Kafriel
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Sure we got free will. Whether I'll go to class or not is something I will decide by myself. I get to choose if I should have breakfast or not, what to eat, how to move around town, etc., etc.
Quote:

There is a belief that Free Will exists, as we have the right to choose what we do. But what happens, or what we do after choosing what to do - is already predetermined.
We can choose what to do -> there is free will. Where's evidence that the things we choose are already predetermined by someone else?
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Old 2010-05-17, 00:23   Link #5
Arbitres
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That isn't my belief, as I can agree with your first statement.

I won't say that there isn't a possibility of determinism be at least somewhat existent. Whether or not it controls our entire destiny is debatable.

What I meant was 'You can choose what seat you take, but the ferriswheel keeps moving." sort of ideology. You can choose what you do, but it won't matter much. I don't believe this, but it is an ideal that is probable used by at least someone.


I self-determine myself, I don't think determinism effects me in such a manner I can't choose my own actions. Through the course of my actions, I decide on whether to move effectively or quickly - that is an example of choice.

Though I think I will stop now, before I make myself look like an idiot or an even bigger one
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Old 2010-05-17, 00:34   Link #6
Proto
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Quote:
Sure we got free will. Whether I'll go to class or not is something I will decide by myself. I get to choose if I should have breakfast or not, what to eat, how to move around town, etc., etc.
However, it can be argued that your actions are predictable the more we know about your circumstances. If we know that your parents educated you so that you would go to class without fail everyday, and that there are no circumstances that would change that tendence, then there is no reason that you wouldn't go to class a given day given that I don't interfere with your thought process. What I mean here is that human decision may be seen as a perfectly structured deterministic machine where your genetics, your education and your circumstances are the input, and your actions are the output. In that sense determinism wouldn't be something in the lines of there being a higher stream guiding our actions, but simply it describing our behavior as the direct result of our past and our present.
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Old 2010-05-17, 00:40   Link #7
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It is possible for a human to exercise their free will, but this usually results in death of one sort or another.

Determinism is balderdash; it's just a way of believing in destiny without believing in a deity. The only determinism that exists is what society wills into existence--we're at the mercy of external factors because we're mortal and we don't wish to die, not because everything is predestined.

Put another way, we're allowed free will--within a very strict societal constraint. Thus our will isn't truly free, because there are consequences--some of them very dire--for acting counter to societal norms.
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Old 2010-05-17, 00:45   Link #8
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If we know that your parents educated you so that you would go to class without fail everyday, and that there are no circumstances that would change that tendence, then there is no reason that you wouldn't go to class a given day given that I don't interfere with your thought process.
As a matter of fact, I am your typical studious guy who teaches his classmates, but I'll still bail if I'm tired or not feeling like it.
Quote:
What I mean here is that human decision may be seen as a perfectly structured deterministic machine where your genetics, your education and your circumstances are the input, and your actions are the output. In that sense determinism wouldn't be something in the lines of there being a higher stream guiding our actions, but simply it describing our behavior as the direct result of our past and our present.
I can only see this as statistics to predict someone's actions based on his history. A more detailed past allows for a higher success rate, but it would never go past 50% at best: there's four parts of a human conscience: the part we know and show to others, the part we keep for ourselves, the part that others see but we can't perceive, and a part unknown to both us and the ones around us. Based on this theory (which I heard from a psychologist back in high school), other people can only see two of the four sides that constitute your personality, and can record only as much.
Quote:
The only determinism that exists is what society wills into existence--we're at the mercy of external factors because we're mortal and we don't wish to die
Society doesn't decide who lives or dies though...tons of criminals, anarchists and illegal immigrants flood the streets I've been walking the past 4 years^^
Quote:
societal norms
could you give an example? Living in a different country on the verge of bankruptcy, I don't really get it.
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Old 2010-05-17, 00:51   Link #9
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Like I stated in the other thread, it is my belief that as complex biological organisms we have the illusion of free will, but it does not actually exist. I do not think this devalues or detracts from the decisions we make because to our understanding we are making our own decisions. We still have to work towards goals, have our own ambitions or lack of ambitions, our own personal struggles, etc. These things aren't any less valid... We can only understand our true lack of will from a philosophical/objective viewpoint, and acknowledging that it doesn't exist in that plane does not change daily life.

This kind of reminds me of an anime actually, to tie in to this forum. Chobits explored the theme of artificial intelligence becoming complex enough to appear human, and whether these beings were worth the same as humans.
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Old 2010-05-17, 00:56   Link #10
Proto
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I can only see this as statistics to predict someone's actions based on his history. A more detailed past allows for a higher success rate, but it would never go past 50% at best: there's four parts of a human conscience: the part we know and show to others, the part we keep for ourselves, the part that others see but we can't perceive, and a part unknown to both us and the ones around us. Based on this theory (which I heard from a psychologist back in high school), other people can only see two of the four sides that constitute your personality, and can record only as much.
Totally agreed, and that's why that for all practical purposes free will exists and is there given that no one would be able to completely predict another person. However, this is just approximating things: We do are deterministic machines, the fact that there is no Laplace demon doesn't change this fact.

I guess you could say that this is a mixture of cultural, environmental and genetic determinism. Or could you say that there is another factor other than this that would let you escape the cage of your past and your present?


Of course, there is a very interesting middle ground that many people miss, called compatibilism that might be worth considering:

Quote:
Compatibilism, as championed by the ancient Greek Stoics, Hume and many contemporary philosophers, is a theory that argues that if free will and determinism exist they are in fact compatible. Determinists argue that all acts that take place are predetermined by prior causes, including human actions. If a free action is defined as one that is not predetermined by prior causes, then determinism, which claims that human actions are predetermined, rules out the possibility of free actions.
A compatibilist, or soft determinist, in contrast, will define a free act in a way that does not hinge on the presence or absence of prior causes. For example, one could define a free act as one that involves no compulsion by another person. Since the physical universe and the laws of nature are not persons, actions which are caused by the laws of nature would still be free acts- therefore it is wrong to conclude that universal determinism would mean we are never free.
For example, you could choose to continue reading or to stop reading this article; while a compatibilist determinist would not deny that whatever choice you make will have been predetermined since the beginning of time, they will argue that this choice that you make is an example of free will because no one is forcing you to make whatever choice you make. In contrast, someone could be holding a gun to your head and tell you that unless you read the article, (s)he will kill you; to some compatibilists, that is an example of a lack of free will. And these would argue for inclusion of such internal compulsions as kleptomania or addiction. Other compatibilists would disregard a gun as limiting free will, as one can defy a gun and be shot, even though one cannot break free of strong handcuffs.
Further, according to Hume, free will should not be understood as an absolute ability to have chosen differently under exactly the same inner and outer circumstances. Rather, it is a hypothetical ability to have chosen differently if one had been differently psychologically disposed by some different beliefs or desires. That is, when one says that one could either continue to read this page or to delete it, one doesn't really mean that both choices are compatible with the complete state of the world right now, but rather that if one had desired to delete it one would have, even though as a matter of fact one actually desires to continue reading it, and therefore that is what will actually happen.
Which I do not agree on, but it is nevertheless worth considering.
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Old 2010-05-17, 01:13   Link #11
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Meh, half the argument is in defining "free will."

In the sense I understand "free will," quantum mechanics says there's no such thing as determinism. So, close enough.
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Old 2010-05-17, 01:15   Link #12
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Humans have free will. At least, they do before getting a career. You can choose what you want to do throughout your life, even if they are the smallest things. Eventually, you might realize that those things you undervalued before, those choices you made that you thought were unimportant were in fact the most satisfying. Anyways, people do have free will. Governments and corporations want to strip you of it though.
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Old 2010-05-17, 01:33   Link #13
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Compatibilism sounds like determinism, they just change "irrelevant acts" into "free will".
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cultural, environmental and genetic determinism
While I will pass on the cultural (since it will probably derail the thread in a very long convo), the idea of environmental and genetic determinism seems rather off to me; looking at the world of today, we've got huge companies literally killing the planet and the very same companies planting vast expansions of flora to counter their own emissions (otherwise they pay a fine, but it is a negligible amount considering the gain of a company had they used the "green land" to industrially expand, so it doesn't count as a limitation of free will), they play with the environment as they seem fit, with nobody but themselves as judges of what will come to pass. On the matter of genetics, there's all sorts of surgeries available and there can be both mutations and gene regulations (seeing the first as the exception in the predestined bunch of normal humans and the latter as a change in what you were meant to be)...and, as I type this post, I realize it's only a matter of how you see things, two sides of the same coin...and for those who say that the coin is destined to land on tails, my bet is that it will land on its edge
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Old 2010-05-17, 01:55   Link #14
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A simple way to understand free will.
"Would you like potatoes along with your hamburger?"
You can choose if you want or not. Your choices are limited to only these two options.
You can also choose what type of hamburger you want but only amongst the choices the menu offers.
You can choose the fast food store you will go to eat too but only amongst the stores you can afford to go to, based on distance or time or even money.

You have free will but not absolute free will. You are given some choices from which you choose from but you can't do anything you want, like God for example. There are many restrictions.
Most of the times the very society imposes those restrictions to a degree they cease to be options and you accept them as impossible to think of. Some have more privileges that allow them through money or connections to have a broader number of options. Others can't even choose to not die from their cancer.

Thus free will is determined by the privileges you have as an individual and the material restrictions of your body and society. It is also constrained by your subconscious and unconscious desires. If you like manipulating women, chances are you will talk, marry and have a family with such women, usually not because of personal choice but because of a weird compulsion. And that is the thing about compulsions, they usually make you choose the least favorable option not because of choice but because of a weird inner desire you have the need to fulfill, despite never really choosing to have in the first place. Most homosexuals for example claim that they don't like people of the same gender because of choice but because they were born this way.

There is a Hindu philosopher who once quoted on this: "There is no such thing as free will. The very two words that make it up, contradict each other." And he was right. You are never truly free if you have needs to fulfill. That is the essence of Nirvana or Enlightenment in eastern religions. True freedom means doing absolutely nothing out of need, basic or secondary, to do it in the first place. Not creative and almost inhumane but it's true.
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Old 2010-05-17, 02:01   Link #15
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Free-will exists (and its more-or-less impossible to convince me otherwise), but I'd say people act based on their instincts and their environment a lot of the time.
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Old 2010-05-17, 02:05   Link #16
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It doesn't matter. If everything is predetermined, it's done so at a level we cannot perceive. Therefore, to a human, it appears as though free will exists regardless of whether or not it truly does. As there is no practical difference we can observe, we might as well assume free will does in fact exist.
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Old 2010-05-17, 02:58   Link #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kamui4356 View Post
It doesn't matter. If everything is predetermined, it's done so at a level we cannot perceive. Therefore, to a human, it appears as though free will exists regardless of whether or not it truly does. As there is no practical difference we can observe, we might as well assume free will does in fact exist.
You know, that sounds almost like an argument for God's existence?

It doesn't matter. If God exists, He exists at a level we cannot perceive... As there is no practical difference whether or not we can observe God, we might as well assume that God exists.

Kidding aside, I've already stated my stand in a previous thread before it got deleted. Rather than go through it again, I'll agree for the moment with what Raiga already stated:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Raiga View Post
In the sense I understand "free will," quantum mechanics says there's no such thing as determinism. So, close enough.
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Old 2010-05-17, 03:44   Link #18
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If a person adheres to the old adage: "It's only wrong if you get caught". Then I guess that's free will.

Conscience-wise - Some people don't have a conscience or a conscience on the level of a pious individual. Maybe due to their upbringing, conditioning, required for the job, or whatever. Different people act differently.
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Old 2010-05-17, 05:10   Link #19
SaintessHeart
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Ever heard of :

You can do whatever you want, as long as you don't get caught.

or

Do whatever you want now. Just bear the consequences later.

Well. It pretty much summarise what I have to say for free will - it means to do anything you want.
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Old 2010-05-17, 07:02   Link #20
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Originally Posted by ChainLegacy View Post
Like I stated in the other thread, it is my belief that as complex biological organisms we have the illusion of free will, but it does not actually exist. I do not think this devalues or detracts from the decisions we make because to our understanding we are making our own decisions. We still have to work towards goals, have our own ambitions or lack of ambitions, our own personal struggles, etc. These things aren't any less valid... We can only understand our true lack of will from a philosophical/objective viewpoint, and acknowledging that it doesn't exist in that plane does not change daily life.
I agree with this.
Either everything we do has a cause. In that case, somewhere down the line, there are influences we have no control over, and these influences ultimately result in our choices.
If, on the other hand, we act without cause, then what we do is basically random. We don't have control over something that is random, as it seems to happen without any reason whatsoever. If my hand moves towards my ear every other hour by itself, then it doesn't matter whether there is a cause for it or not - if I can't control it, I can't control it, though I'd certainly feel better if I knew why that's the case. Example more or less borrowed from Mark Rowlands.
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