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Free Will Vs Determinism

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Skwim, Sep 28, 2019.

  1. Skwim

    Skwim Veteran Member

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    Several years ago, eight to be exact, I posted my reason for dismissing the idea of free will and adopting hard determinism. Because the topic of free will vs determinism hasn't been discussed in some time and a lot of newcomers have come on board RF I thought I'd bring it up again. The following is taken from my original post.



    Discussions about free will usually center around an affirmation and/or a denunciation of it. Very interesting thoughts on both sides have come out of such conversations, many well thought out, others not so much. Whatever the case, there's frequently been a problem with what is meant by "will" and "free will," so much so that the issue can quickly become mired in misunderstanding. To avoid this I've found the following definitions to be on point and helpful.

    Will is the capacity to act decisively on one's desires.

    Free will is to do so undirected by controlling influences.


    The notion of free will is important to many because without it would mean each of us is nothing more than an automaton, a machine that performs a function according to a predetermined set of instructions, which is anathema to the notion personal freedom. If people lack freedom of choice how can they be blamed for what they do, or be deserving of any praise laid on them? For Christians this has the added consequence of robbing the concept of sin/salvation of any meaning. So most people are loath to even entertain the idea of no free will. Free will is almost always regarded as a given.

    Any exception to free will is regarded as temporary constraint. "I am free to to do this or that unless someone/thing comes and prevents it. Of course this isn't what the free will issue is about at all. Free will is about the idea that, aside from any external constraints, "I could have chosen to do differently if I wished." So I think another valid way way of looking at free will is just that: the ability to do differently if one wished. "I got a haircut yesterday, but I could just as well have had a hot dog instead."

    Those who most ardently disagree with this are the hard determinists, people claiming that everything we do has a cause. And because everything we do is caused we could not have done differently---no, you could not have chosen to have a hot dog--- therefore it's absurd to place blame or praise. A pretty drastic notion, and one rejected by almost everyone. So whatever else is said about the issue of free will ultimately it must come down to this very basic question: Are we free to do other than what we chose or not? I say, No you are not. Free will is an illusion. But before going into why, we first need to get rid of the term "choice" because it assumes to be true the condition under consideration, freedom to do what we want. So no use of "choice" or any of its cognates.


    Here's how I see it.

    There are only two ways actions can take place; completely randomly, or caused. By "completely randomly" I mean absolutely and utterly random, not an action which, for some reason, we do not or cannot determine a cause. This excludes things such as the "random" roll of dice. Dice land as they do because of the laws of physics, and although we may not be able to identify and calculate how dice land, it doesn't mean that the end result is not caused. This is the most common notion of "random" events: those we are unable to predict and appear to come about by pure chance. The only place where true randomness, an absolutely uncaused event, has been suggested to occur is at the subatomic level, which has no effect on super-atomic events, those at which we operate. And I don't think anyone would suggest that's how we operate anyway, completely randomly: what we do is for absolutely no reason whatsoever. So that leaves non-randomness as the operative agent of our actions. We do this or that because. . . . And the "cause" in "because" is telling. It signals a deterministic operation at work. What we do is determined by something. Were it not, what we do would be absolutely random in nature: for absolutely no reason at all. But as all of us claim from time to time, we do have reasons for what we do. And these reasons are the causes that easily negate randomness.

    So, because what we do obviously has a cause, could we have done differently? Not unless at least one of the causal determinants leading up to the event in question had been different. If I end up at home after going for a walk it would be impossible to end up at my neighbor's house if I took the exact same route. Of course I could take a different route and still wind up at home, but I would still be in the same position of not ending up at my neighbor's. To do that there would have had to be a different set of circumstances (causes) at work. But there weren't so I had no option but to wind up at home. The previous chain of cause/effects inexorably determined where I ended up. So to is it with our decisions. We do what we do because all the relevant preceding cause/effect events inexorably led up to that very act and no other. We HAD to do what we did. There was no freedom to do any differently.

    What does this all mean then? It means that we can never do any any differently other than what we are caused to do. Our actions are caused (determined) by previous events and intervening outside events (also causes) and nothing else. Even our wishing to think we could have done otherwise is a mental event that was determined by all the cause/effect events that led to it. We think as we do because. . . . And that "because" can never be any different than what it is. We have no will to do anything other than what we're caused to do. In effect then, free will does not exist, nor does choice, etc..

    This means that blame and praise come out as pretty hollow concepts. As I mentioned, if you cannot do other than what you did why should you be blamed or praised for them? To do so is like blaming or praising a rock for where it lies. It had no "choice" in the matter. Of course, we can still claim to have free will if we define the term as being free of external constraints,but that's not really addressing free will, and why free will exists as an issue. The free will issue exists because people claim "I could have done differently if I had wished." Problem is, of course, they didn't wish differently because . . . .

    This, then, is my argument---a bit shortened to keep it brief---against free will as it stands in opposition to determinism.

    Thoughts?
     
    #1 Skwim, Sep 28, 2019
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2019
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  2. Estro Felino

    Estro Felino Believer in free will
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    Ok...classical example , Popeye.

    Let's say you punch me in the face.

    I have a free will, so I decide not to punch you back.:)

    See? We do have free will:p
     
  3. Skwim

    Skwim Veteran Member

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    Nope. Thing is, you only "decided" what you did because you couldn't "decide" any differently. Remember, there's no such thing as choosing. ;)

    .
     
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  4. Estro Felino

    Estro Felino Believer in free will
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    So..you mean I didn't choose to punch you back because my nature is ladylike, sweet, submissive?

    Thanks...that's flattering
     
    #4 Estro Felino, Sep 28, 2019
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2019
  5. Skwim

    Skwim Veteran Member

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    Sorry to say, but No.

    .
     
  6. Nakosis

    Nakosis crystal soldier
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    I see a problem with the definition being used for free will unless “controlling influences” is specified.

    You are a controlling influence. You make a choice, your choice made is now the controlling influence.

    So whatever it is that you the person is, the internal process of choosing is a necessary controlling influence to free will. If one can’t act as a controlling influence, then then there is no will in free will. Ones will is the controlling influence.


    So free will would be the ability to make a choice independent of current external influences. IOW, can one choose between alternate actions independent of the current external situation. This I think is possible.


    If we stick with, Free will is to do so undirected by controlling influences, then any actual “will” has been removed by the definition since “will” is a controlling influence. To act decisively on one’s desires one has to influence the choice which means being in control.

    I don’t think free will as defined in the OP is useful for a discussion on free will because basically it has already been stated there is no will in free will.

    However if we, ourself, is allowed as an exception to be the controlling influence then maybe there is room to make an argument.
     
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  7. Shadow Wolf

    Shadow Wolf Crazy Diamond

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    We are clearly too constrained to have this "free will," and thus the question is really do we have any will or is it all an illusion? We know nature does not require a cause. But clearly we can analyze a human and find trauma behind behaviors. But how many benefits can be adequately explained in such a way? What totality of the spectrum of our behavior is influenced? How much, if any, is chosen? Is there a will to embiggen our will?

    Is it free if we aurally predict you won't punch back based on your personality?
     
  8. Estro Felino

    Estro Felino Believer in free will
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    It is either / or
     
  9. Skwim

    Skwim Veteran Member

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    Then let's hear your definition. Perhaps it will be better.

    .
     
  10. Estro Felino

    Estro Felino Believer in free will
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    Explain yourself...then. I couldn't decide any differently..what do you mean by that?
     
  11. Skwim

    Skwim Veteran Member

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    As I defined "will," I believe we do.



    A cause to what?


    .

     
  12. sun rise

    sun rise "Let there be peace and love among all"
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    I don't agree with your binary choice. It's like the argument between nature and nurture - both may be true to varying degrees as the current state of research illustrates.

    I find this article to be illustrative Free Will Is Real

    And this: free will can exist even if determinism is true
    and the rest of the article Free Will and Neuroscience: From Explaining Freedom Away to New Ways of Operationalizing and Measuring It
     
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  13. Skwim

    Skwim Veteran Member

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    Choosing doesn't exist. You had to do what you did: not punch me in the face.

    .
     
  14. Jayhawker Soule

    Jayhawker Soule <yawn> ignore </yawn>
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    Just wondering ...

    if I were to give you a compelling counter-argument
    • would you recognize it as such?
    • would you change your position?
    • how do you know?
     
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  15. Estro Felino

    Estro Felino Believer in free will
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    But another person would have done it...so we all choose differently.
    Different wills.
     
  16. Shadow Wolf

    Shadow Wolf Crazy Diamond

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    Causality.
     
  17. Heyo

    Heyo Active Member

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    I'm generally with you as I also see "free will" as an illusion.
    But there are some caveats to it. 1. We have the illusion of free will for a reason. It was helpful for us to develop as a social and, ultimately, moral species. Therefore it is helpful to act <i>as if</i> we had free will. I.e. praising moral deeds and blaming (and punishing) immoral ones.
    2. You didn't mention dualism as an opposing idea to the deterministic view of free will. Has no-one brought that up yet? I could play devils advocate to test your idea if you want.
    3. There might be true randomness in our thoughts. The sodium canals in a neuron are so small that the chance of opening or not may rest on quantum effects. (But randomness is not freedom.)
    4. Sooner or later someone will mention the Libet experiment. You'll find a description at Neuroscience of free will - Wikipedia
     
  18. shunyadragon

    shunyadragon Veteran Member
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    First, randomness is negated at the gigo and does not exist as you describe it regardless of whether Free Will exists in one degree or another. The only observed randomness is the unpredictability of any one event as to the possible outcomes. Yes, natural deterministic operations are at work in everything even when there is more than one possible outcome of a cause and effect event.

    The fact that there are more than one outcome for any cause and effect event leave open the possibility of a compatibilist possibility of limited Free Will.
     
  19. Skwim

    Skwim Veteran Member

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  20. Heyo

    Heyo Active Member

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    If you have an argument that I haven't heard yet, I will give it due consideration. But most probably I have heard and dismissed it. But you'll never know if your argument is compelling to someone else but you if you don't present it.
    Iow, **** or get off the pot.
     
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