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Old 2010-05-17, 09:12   Link #21
Alex Keller
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A machine doesn't make it's 'own' choice.
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Old 2010-05-17, 10:32   Link #22
Jaden
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Neither determinism or indeterminism would leave room for free will. One claims that your decision-making is predetermined, the other claims that it's random. So I don't think these quantum mechanical matters need to be brought in at all.

Free will is wordplay, a construct as the TC suggested. It's a highly necessary one, we need it to feel a degree of responsibility for our actions and retain order in society. I would define free will as a feeling, like attraction, or shame. Feelings don't have to be universal truths, it's enough for them to exist in our heads and guide our lives.

And indeed, as long as machines don't have feelings, they wouldn't have free will either.
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Old 2010-05-17, 12:22   Link #23
ChainLegacy
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Aren't 'feelings' entirely out of our control, though? I love the taste of feta cheese for example, but I never chose for that to happen. It just did. Or attraction might be another example, like many people know we aren't always attracted to the man/woman that would be best for us.
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Old 2010-05-17, 12:26   Link #24
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Old 2010-05-17, 12:39   Link #25
Vexx
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Bringing a quote on "determinism" from as good a source as any on this:
Quote:
Due to its assumption of determinism, Laplace's thought experiment is inherently incompatible with quantum mechanical theories, where chance is an essential part of the world's unfolding. The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, for example, forbids exact measurements of positions and velocities simultaneously.
John Polkinghorne argues that nature is cloud-like rather than clock-like and points out that, apart from any other problems, uncertainty about the exact position of an electron on the other side of the universe would be sufficient to invalidate a calculation about the position of an O2 molecule in air after 50 collisions with its neighbours (i.e. in about 0.1 ns), even if they were solely influenced by Newton's laws.[2]
According to chemical engineer Robert Ulanowicz, in his 1986 book Growth and Development, Laplace's demon met its end with early 19th century developments of the concepts of irreversibility, entropy, and the second law of thermodynamics. In other words, Laplace's demon was based on the premise of reversibility and classical mechanics; thermodynamics, i.e. real processes, however, are, under current theory, thought to be irreversible.
In 2008, David Wolpert used Cantor diagonalization to disprove Laplace's demon. He did this by assuming that the demon is a computational device and showing that no two such devices can completely predict each other.[3]
Some folks used to argue that if you could step up from our 3-d view to a total spacetime view, free will would vanish -- problem is that view doesn't take into account quantum mechanics (i.e. its 'classical'). Every point from the "present" forward exists in a multiply possible set of conditions, so such a viewpoint would be clear and concrete to the past and murkier and cloudier to the future.

So free will *can* exist... BUT -- humans operate far more frequently on "mental automatic pilot" than they themselves often realize. They let their past experience and mental baggage, flaky world-view models, etc. drive their choices without re-examining them. This makes them very predictable. Brains that are always learning and adapting to new information (and hence rewiring itself, dropping connections, adding connections) are harder to predict for future behavior other than they're likely to be more successful in adjusting to new situations. Recent neuroscience studies also show that humans make many kinds of decisions *prior* to the higher function parts of the brain kicking in... in other words, the decision gets made by a much faster lower function area (fight vs flight, muscle memory, etc), then the much slower higher functions *rationalize* why they made that decision.
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Old 2010-05-17, 12:49   Link #26
SaintessHeart
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Originally Posted by Vexx View Post
Bringing a quote on "determinism":
Some folks argue that if you could step up from our view to a total spacetime view, free will would vanish -- problem is that view doesn't take into account quantum mechanics (i.e. its 'classical'). Every point from the "present" forward exists in a multiply possible set of conditions, so such a viewpoint would be clear and concrete to the past and murkier and cloudier to the future.

So free will *could* exist... BUT -- humans operate far more frequently on "mental automatic pilot" than they themselves often realize. They let their past experience and mental baggage, flaky world-view models, etc. drive their choices without re-examining them. This makes them very predictable. Brains that are always learning and adapting to new information (and hence rewiring itself, dropping connections, adding connections) are harder to predict for future behavior other than they're likely to be more successful in adjusting to new situations.
I think it is more of a issue with "fear of the unknown". Simply put, if a person wants to draw a line down a self-generating Pascal's triangle to cover all the Fibonacci numbers, AND catch up to the point where the newest line is generated, and that the Pascal's triangle is only shown until the (n+x) point, and the nth point is where the person has drawn until.

By the time the person has finished calculating the next set of values he should take, he/she is already left far behind from the newest generated line. However if he/she had drawn down in advance by pattern recognition, he/she could have the combo broken.

The persistence of doubt in whether the future occurrences will have an unwanted impact on everyone drives people to use the past as a guide, which can result in the excessive pattern recognition - when followed, kills off the "free will".

To be or not to be? That's the question.
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Old 2010-05-17, 13:12   Link #27
Arbitres
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An example of free will:

Saintess decided to steal a Nekomimi from the cloning labs. Already outfitted with cutesy clothing and the imoutou persona. However when he decides to the store for milk...

I decide to break in and steal said nekomimi, thus robbing him.


it's free will! I'll instill my values into the nekomimi, and give her back to Saintess when she is respectable and not just a moeblob.


What I mean is people can choose to hurt others while trying to help others, that is choice. I think people choose what they do because of how they were raised, what environment they grew in, etc etc.

O the matter of free will I think it's up to a person tod ecide whether or not they have it. Like going into a relationship, into the cubics or so forth.

Because both ask for you to sacrifice your free will, to some varying degrees. What you want to do, and what you need to do. That is about it.

Oh well, I'll leave it to the less sarcastic, more professional explainers. :]
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Old 2010-05-17, 13:13   Link #28
Lio
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I choose to post in this weird thread instead of doing more productive things, ergo I have free will.
Beyond that, I'll leave it up to our fabulous philosophers with PhD degrees and decades of education to spend their lives figuring out what "free will" is.

I'll be over here finding out ways to make the world a brighter place.
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Old 2010-05-17, 13:30   Link #29
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Think of what "personality" means. A character who behaves with a specific mindset. We can assume how someone with a vivid personality will react to something. Such a person has no free will if his actions are driven by his personality. He may have chosen to be this way but he is still following a motive which ultimately makes him bound to his own choices.
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Old 2010-05-17, 14:22   Link #30
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Originally Posted by Vexx View Post
Some folks used to argue that if you could step up from our 3-d view to a total spacetime view, free will would vanish -- problem is that view doesn't take into account quantum mechanics (i.e. its 'classical'). Every point from the "present" forward exists in a multiply possible set of conditions, so such a viewpoint would be clear and concrete to the past and murkier and cloudier to the future.
Strongly agree. For every physical phenomenon we can observe, we can diligently trace it back to the original "fluff" that made it possible. However, given the same set of "fluff", it is well-nigh impossible to re-create the phenomenon exactly down to the most minute scale. There are far too many variables to account for, far beyond any entity's ability to control. The future simply cannot be "determined" in the classical, Newtonian sense.

We don't even have to think on a universal scale to see this in action. Simply consider our inability to predict weather reliably beyond a week. Neither can we predict the shape of any given snowflake, despite our detailed knowledge of water molecules. Chaos occurs, so much so that while we can see patterns emerging in the initial iterations of a phenomenon, after a while, we can no longer meaningfully predict how it will unfold. This is the proverbial flap of a butterfly's wings that eventually creates a hurricane halfway across the world — we cannot possibly hope to know this will happen in advance.

In this sense, determinism cannot be possible. Free will, the ability to make a conscious choice, is thus most definitely not an illusion in this case. The outcome of the choice is not "determined" in advance.

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...humans operate far more frequently on "mental automatic pilot" than they themselves often realize. They let their past experience and mental baggage, flaky world-view models, etc. drive their choices without re-examining them. This makes them very predictable.
That is if you regard a human as being no more than the sum of his parts. In which case, the menu of choices before any individual is forever confined within a range predetermined by his physical organs.

But a human being is more than the sum of his parts. He has an autonomous mind that emerged out of the biological processes that created him. The mind is an intangible product that requires a whole new set of statistics to measure, separate from the ones that measure our bodily functions.

Thought processes can be reduced to the electrical signals between neurons, but the infinite interactions created something larger than the sum of all those signals: conscious thought, the function of an active mind.

Through conscious decisions, habitual behaviour can be overcome. Physical limits previously thought inviolate can also be surpassed through the conscious application of willpower.

When I think of "free will", I am referring to such conscious thought, something we all have some measure of direct control over, regardless of pre-existing biological constraints.
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Old 2010-05-17, 14:29   Link #31
Proto
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So free will *can* exist... BUT -- humans operate far more frequently on "mental automatic pilot" than they themselves often realize. They let their past experience and mental baggage, flaky world-view models, etc. drive their choices without re-examining them. This makes them very predictable. Brains that are always learning and adapting to new information (and hence rewiring itself, dropping connections, adding connections) are harder to predict for future behavior other than they're likely to be more successful in adjusting to new situations.
Isn't that a contradiction though? Learning and adapting to new information can also be reworded as remaking your word models and adding more stuff and more baggage, and more past experience.

As for Heisenberg uncertainty principle, I would like to take Einstein's take in the issue when he said that randomness just reflects our ignorance about a given subject, however the concept still baffles me to be truthful. This certainly have interesting impacts on implying things like multiverses interpretations and imposing necessary probability distributions when talking about the future, however I'm still doubtful as to how relevant quantum physicis principle can be on the macrouniverse

Quote:
But a human being is more than the sum of his parts. He has an autonomous mind that emerged out of the biological processes that created him. The mind is an intangible product that requires a whole new set of statistics to measure, separate from the ones that measure our bodily functions. Thought processes can be reduced to the electrical signals between neurons, but the infinite interactions created something larger than the sum of all those signals: conscious thought.
And yet, in the end concious thought can be reduced to something completely measurable, graphed, and understood as a mathematical model



This video describes the effort of Japanese scientists to reconstruct the thoughts of a subject when presented with a given image. Peer-reviewed paper on the above here.
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Old 2010-05-17, 14:35   Link #32
Vexx
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Einstein later retracted that statement (according to him, one of his biggest blunders). He did remain (as do many scientists) unsatisfied with core quantum mechanics since it remains hardly more than a set of tools than "an explanation".
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Old 2010-05-17, 15:54   Link #33
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Originally Posted by Proto View Post
And yet, in the end concious thought can be reduced to something completely measurable, graphed, and understood as a mathematical model.
Key word here being "model", an approximation of the actual thing, namely conscious thought.

In the abstract of the paper you linked, the scientists themselves admit:
Quote:
...Constraint-free visual image reconstruction is more challenging, as it is impractical to specify brain activity for all possible images...
Which is another way of saying there is a limit to what science can usefully measure and describe, with respect to conscious thought.

It is not just a matter of there being insufficient computing power to fully measure and describe every variable that influences conscious thought, but also the fact that the full study of the mind requires more than just the study of its constituent parts.

Let's refer to emotion, for example. Say you feel happy. The state of being "happy" can be measured and quantified in terms of neurological impulses in our brains. But such a description in itself is insufficient to describe "happiness", because it is a state of mind that emerged out of an interaction between various neurons in our brains and external stimuli that we cannot fully catalogue. To fully describe the state of "happiness", we would require a whole new class of measurements, and not just those derived from brain scans.

As Vexx hinted in an earlier thread, I'm making reference to a relatively new concept in science, that of emergence. To use the obtuse defintion provided by Wikipediea:
Quote:
Every resultant is either a sum or a difference of the co-operant forces; their sum, when their directions are the same, their difference, when their directions are contrary. Further, every resultant is clearly traceable in its components, because these are homogeneous and commensurable.

It is otherwise with emergents when, instead of adding measurable motion to measurable motion, or things of one kind to other individuals of their kind, there is a co-operation of things of unlike kinds. The emergent is unlike its components insofar as these are incommensurable, and it cannot be reduced to their sum or their difference.
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Old 2010-05-17, 16:03   Link #34
SaintessHeart
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Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
In this sense, determinism cannot be possible. Free will, the ability to make a conscious choice, is thus most definitely not an illusion in this case. The outcome of the choice is not "determined" in advance.
You mean, that the "reality" which we often regard and quote to other people, is nothing more than a generally agreed upon and followed perception?

Quote:
When I think of "free will", I am referring to such conscious thought, something we all have some measure of direct control over, regardless of pre-existing biological constraints.
One question - what about the subconscious thoughts?

Scientific research has pointed out that, our subconscious thought is extremely powerful and creative due to its "freedom of movement" within the sea of knowledge in our minds, yet a large part of it is untapped. My theory is that our fear of the unknown, and of death and madness, is the biggest and most damaging inhibitor that restricts our "free will".

In short, we are our own victims of control. Apathy apparently doesn't improve that condition.

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Originally Posted by Vexx View Post
Einstein later retracted that statement (according to him, one of his biggest blunders). He did remain (as do many scientists) unsatisfied with core quantum mechanics since it remains hardly more than a set of tools than "an explanation".
At least it's better than the pre-Einstein "Becuz Iz Liddat!" statement as given by most "quantum mechanists" at that time.

The biggest problem with quantum mechanics making any real sense is that it is based around the concept of energy being quantified, which is formerly thought to be the the factor that affect the properties of masses within spacetime.

Let's start by explaining Newton's Laws. The laws revolve around a single assumption that the mass cannot be changed, which is supposedly a fact in those days. Then, with the advent of nuclear science, it has been found that mass can be changed, thus adding another variable to the equation and forming the base idea behind quantum mechanics.

Subsequently, the subatomic particles are found to be highly erratic in their motions, an occurrence known as entropy. However, there are limits to the randomness due to the the initial constants found in the starting equations, so this simply branches out into something known as Quantum Field Theory. Similarly, the idea of the QFT also presents anomalies in the experiments conducted at quantum phase transitions, for example, the state of matter which has more tightly packed particles than a solid is known as the Bose-Einstein Condensate. So it begs the question : will further packing particles into a smaller volume create another state of matter with a radically different properties?

The benefit of doubt in the plausibility of the sciences, facts and theories are the gap creators between complete logic and the current state of quantum mechanics, as the scientists conduct more experiments, more anomalies appear. However, some of these anomalies fall within a distinct pattern of occurrence, such as the simple photoelectric effect of light on metals. This gives rise to an oxymoronic term "deterministic chaos", meaning that within chaos there is a pattern, however, within the pattern, there is more chaos.

And this is already proven in the mathematical study of fractals. Whether applied to the idea of quantum mechanics or the topic itself, the maths fits, but we don't know how much because of the "chaos within chaos which we can see but not known at the extreme details". Thus the name "Chaos Theory" : theoretically, everything can be proven, practically, everything is in chaos.
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Old 2010-05-17, 16:03   Link #35
Proto
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Let's refer to emotion, for example. Say you feel happy. The state of being "happy" can be measured and quantified in terms of neurological impulses in our brains. But such a description in itself is insufficient to describe "happiness", because it is a state of mind that emerged out of an interaction between various neurons in our brains and external stimuli that we cannot fully catalogue. To fully describe the state of "happiness", we would require a whole new class of measurements, and not just those derived from brain scans.
You are describing the concept of qualia there, which indeed is a baffling concept once we realize the full implications of something that is seemingly so simple, however as much as I share your enthusiasm I do not see why do you automatically assume that such a thing is not measurable or synthesized down into its basic parts. Are you coming from an incompleteness theorem POV?

Quote:
Key word here being "model", an approximation of the actual thing, namely conscious thought.
Well yeah, human understanding itself is a model of reality, and as human beings we are limited by our own perceptions and thoughts. I had already agreed that free will is real for all practical purposes given that its impossible for a human to completely understand another human (even himself), and as such its impossible to predict another person with a 100% accuracy. As such I thought we were discussing things on a more philosophical plane, no need to play with words and nuances. i'm just stating that there are no mistical qualities to human thought or the human mind problem that would hamper its possible study and break down. :/

I will read your link on emergence and come with my thoughts alter...

Last edited by Proto; 2010-05-17 at 16:16.
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Old 2010-05-17, 17:26   Link #36
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You are describing the concept of qualia there, which indeed is a baffling concept once we realize the full implications of something that is seemingly so simple, however as much as I share your enthusiasm I do not see why do you automatically assume that such a thing is not measurable or synthesized down into its basic parts.
I do not deny that any phenomenon can be reduced to its basic parts. But I posit that it is folly to believe that you deduce the whole from those same basic parts. The possible quantum pathways that any of those parts can take are already enough to present formidable challenges on the way forward to the whole. All you have to do is go down one branch path, and you could possibly end up with an entirely different outcome, even though your original phenomenon and the different outcome both started from the same initial state.

Meaning to say, what's the point of reducing an emergent phenomenon, even if you could? All you can tell me are the parts that made it possible. Those parts, on their own, cannot possibly tell me why the phenomenon occurred. It simply did. All the fluff that made it possible simply happened to go down one particular quantum pathway out of an infinite variety of possibilities and, voila, the phenomenon exists.

Now, emergence presents yet another layer of complexity on top of uncertain quantum states. There is the problem that the basic parts that interact to make the emergent phenomena possible change each other even as the process unfolds. And these changes occur at a chaotic (not random) rate and in a chaotic fashion. That being the case, how can you possibly know for sure which state of change in those basic parts was the one that finally made the phenomenon possible?

You can't. All you can reduce are some of the parts that made the phenomenon. And the original state of some of these basic parts has become a matter of speculation.

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Well yeah, human understanding itself is a model of reality, and as human beings we are limited by our own perceptions and thoughts. I had already agreed that free will is real for all practical purposes given that its impossible for a human to completely understand another human (even himself), and as such its impossible to predict another person with a 100% accuracy.
Human understanding is a model of reality, yes, but free will exists. Free will has nothing to do with understanding. It is simply a phenomenon that emerged out of conscious thought. What we choose to do consciously is up to us. We can choose to pursue understanding, or we can choose to remain ignorant. Either way, the choice is up to individuals to make.

And, from what I can tell, this is supposed to be a thread about the validity of free will, no?

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Originally Posted by Proto View Post
As such I thought we were discussing things on a more philosophical plane, no need to play with words and nuances. i'm just stating that there are no mistical qualities to human thought or the human mind problem that would hamper its possible study and break down. :/
I'm a bit miffed that you think I'm playing with words. It means that I've not been successful in boiling down the concept into simple, self-evident terms.

Neither am I for a moment suggesting that there is a "mystical" quality to human thought. All I state is that free will is real. It exists. It requires no "why". We can seek to understand it by trying to study some, if not all, of its basic parts.

Most of all, free will is not an illusion, in the deterministic sense. If it were, it would then suggest strongly to me the existence of some greater mystical force capable of controlling every basic part, to force us to behave in predetermined ways.
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Old 2010-05-17, 17:55   Link #37
Proto
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Meaning to say, what's the point of reducing an emergent phenomenon, even if you could? All you can tell me are the parts that made it possible. Those parts, on their own, cannot possibly tell me why the phenomenon occurred. It simply did. All the fluff that made it possible simply happened to go down one particular quantum pathway out of an infinite variety of possibilities and, voila, the phenomenon exists.
I'm familiar with emergent behavior as it is one of the things you encounter the most when you are dealing with heuristics and numerical programming in computer science. To have your computer systems to solve its tasks in a way that it was never directly programmed into is indeed something baffling, interesting, and a great area to research more about. I think we have been disagreeing because of my lack of ability to properly convey my thoughts, but I say it here: I agree, an analytical POV is necessary in order to understand some of the qualities of the human mind where a synthetic POV is not enough. I was just a little tingled when you just took what I considered a breakthrough in human analysis research and seemingly dismissed it as a mere simplified model, and a wrong approach to understanding the complexity of the human mind. Mea culpa, I misunderstood your intentions.

Still, I still want to remark that a synthetic approach to emerging behavior is not without its merits. More than often seemingly emergent behavior is just the result on us not having performed a comprehensive enough synthetic analysis of our phenomena.

Quote:
All I state is that free will is real. It exists. It requires no "why". We can seek to understand it by trying to study some, if not all, of its basic parts.
And as such I request that we start again. You can state human thought from a synthetic POV. You can state the human-mind duality from an analytical POV. What I don't understand is how you infer from this that free will arises? Are you, like the compatibilists I quoted earlier, one that doesn't consider forces of nature to be limitants of free will and only considers human and social limitants when defining this concept?

Or could you give me your definition of free will? I previously stated that a human being is chained by his genetics, by his uprising and by his circumstances. I see these three elements shaping the human mind up to the point that it takes any decision, making this human decision making a perfectly definable,even if nonpractical, Turing machine. (this may be an oversimplification but it's good for illustrating my point). The only way I could see free will arising is by the inherent probabilistic nature of physics that a quantum analysis of the electrical signals within the brain would give raise to. Is that where you are coming from?

For example....

Quote:
Through conscious decisions, habitual behaviour can be overcome. Physical limits previously thought inviolate can also be surpassed through the conscious application of willpower.
You definite these concious decisions as an example of free will. However, aren't these conscious decisions equally limited by the same genetic, uprising and circumstantial restraints? I cannot conceptualize things that are above my IQ capacity, that I have never experienced before or which the circumstances do not compel me to think. Or at least that's how I see it.

Last edited by Proto; 2010-05-17 at 18:07.
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Old 2010-05-17, 18:53   Link #38
yononaka
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"If everything were predetermined, you could just sit around all day and stuff would still happen." -- a very vehemently held view of a guy I knew in college



Somewhat more pertinently to the topic, I don't think it really matters to (most) people whether we ultimately actually have free will, as long as we get to believe that our decisions/actions aren't controlled by anyone/anything other than ourselves. In other words, whether it exists or not, the concept's target audience is the ego.
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Old 2010-05-17, 19:03   Link #39
Proto
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One could also take the POV of compatibilists towards determinism (which I quite agree with)

Quote:
An argument can be made which claims that the aspects of reality that are important to hope are unaffected by determinism. Whether or not the universe is determined does not change the fact that the future is unknown, and that a person's actions help determine that future. In fact, it is even conceivable that a lack of belief in determinism could lead to 'bleak pessimism', or fatalism, since one could potentially believe that their actions did nothing to determine future events.
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Old 2010-05-17, 20:57   Link #40
Kamui4356
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Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
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.
Actually... You're reading that backwards. Probably because of my wording. It's not an argument for free will, it's an argument against determinism. If determinism exists, it's on a level that is imperceptible to us, therefor for all practical purposes, it doesn't exist. If one were to apply the same logic to god, one would conclude the existence of god is imperceptible to us, therefor god doesn't exist on any level that matters.
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