I've given a great deal of thought to the concept of "free will" and have determined that there really is no such thing. Logically, all of existence is a matter of cause and effect, and since we have no control over the causes (we weren't even present at the time they originated), we obviously can have no control over the effects.

An easy way to prove this precept to yourself is to look back over your life; see that turning point that changed the course of your future? How many people, how many uncontrollable events brought you to that point? See how you really had nothing to do with the path you trod thereafter?

Another interesting side effect of this train of thought is to realize that everything in the universe is interconnected and influences everything else. A simple exercise: look at what you're wearing, then trace each item (and everything in and on it) back to its origin. You'll find people who grew fiber plants (think sun, climate, soil, etc.) in one place (and you can think about what brought them to that time and place, too), factories and workers in other places from whence buttons, zippers, shoelaces, etc. came, and of course the vast array of geographic areas in which the various items of your attire were assembled. Getting aboard this train of thought will allow you to see yourself as a tiny portion of the immense universe, both impacting and being impacted upon by every other entity, from the sun, moon and stars to the ant queen that just laid a thousand eggs in your front yard.

Tying this into the "no free will" argument is simple logic. All the people and elements that went into your appearance today pushed you to make the decisions you made, totally without your knowledge or collusion. Everything that happened everywhere in the universe today will affect what you do tomorrow. Or in the next moment. And you will have absolutely no control over it!


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You are correct in that the beliefs and desires of the agent are at least partially determined by the agents accumulated experiences in their environment but as far as I know there is no scientific research that can back up your claim to completely reduce human agency to simple or operant conditioning. If you can provide some kind of scientific basis for your complete reduction of human agency to conditioning then please cite it.

The rest of your talk about multiple paths and determinism are unprovable metaphysical claims. Your understanding of determinism is based on a literal interpretation of the word "law". In reality, scientists don't think of the laws of nature as real laws at all. They don't govern or control anything. They are simply true statements about nature. No more. No less. Determinism is not a threat to human agency and volition.
My understanding of determinism is determined by how I have been conditioned to think caused by my experiences with the environment. I have been exposed to Edward N. Lorenz butterfly effect, chaos theory, classic mechanics, how scientist depend on a causal deterministic environment to even make predictions, then there is the neural scientists who rarely dispute the brain is deterministic, etc...

Then comes along quantum mechanics and says hey, there may be some things at the quantum level that are random. Yet quantum mechanics defines "random" in slightly different way then its everyday use. This doesn't support free-will, but it takes a shot at disputing hard determinism. Even if that were true, it would still leave no room for free-will. There is evidence of causality and at least soft determinism, there is no evidence for "free-will." And those who say they have it usually have to redefine it into something that ends up not really being free at all.
Your claim that "there is the neural scientists who rarely dispute the brain is deterministic" is a red herring because I never denied anything was deterministic. I simply said that the unprovable metaphysical claims you make about what determinism means for human agency and volition are not real threats. I've already established that human agency and volition are backed up by empirical data from articles in several scientific journals. You haven't raised any issue with the credibility of the research so I'm assuming you accept the findings.

Yet, instead of accepting that the science backs it up you're still trying to claim that, while humans behave exactly as if they are agents and have volition, they don't really because of [insert some philosophical sophistry about choices and necessity here]. This is much like the claim that 'this magic cloth is invisible only to those who are stupid or unfit for their position'. I'm sorry but I don't buy it. Whether humans possess some certain property or not is an empirical question best left up to science and not philosophers that tend to tie themselves in knots over problems while ignoring the reality that science can demonstrate.

If you have sources for your claims about conditioning or what neurodeterminism proves then back it up by citing them.
Why do I need to back up conditioning? All that leads to is determinism which you say you don't deny. And those articles are not empirical evidence for free-will, they are merely studies of the brain that suggest possible links to the concept of "free will." They are not final conclusions, only possible consequences. Yet another consequence of a consequence.

Mark Hallett, a researcher with the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, said, “Free will does exist, but it’s a perception, not a power or a driving force. People experience free will. They have the sense they are free."

See how "free-will" has been redefined here into simply a perception. The illusion of free-will I don't doubt, actual free-will, I have yet to see evidence for.

"The more you scrutinize it, the more you realize you don’t have it, he said."

Einstein said, “a human can very well do what he wants, but cannot will what he wants.”

Dr. Silberstein, an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Elizabethtown
College in Pennsylvania who focuses on philosophy of physics and
philosophy of cognitive neuroscience noted that, "every physical system that has been investigated has turned out to be either deterministic or random. Both are bad news for free will. If human actions can’t be caused and aren’t random, It must be — what — some weird magical power? People who believe already that humans are magic will have no problem with that. But whatever that power is — call it soul or the spirit — those people have to explain how it could stand independent of the physical universe and yet reach from the immaterial world and meddle in our own, jiggling brain cells that lead us to say the words “molten chocolate.”

Metaphysical means "beyond physical", I don't believe that he said anything that is anything but based in the physical reality in his claims.

Does he specify why this means we have free will? The brain doesn't exist in a vacuum.


Because a toilet has mechanisms to control how much water it stores awaiting to be used to flush, could we then argue that the toilet has free will? I see this "proof of free will" as a neural (whatever its called) "water level in toilet controller", and not free will. I don't see how he drew his conclusion.


That area of the brain (the medial frontal cortex) controls activity, so that the system we call the human body can function properly.


The brain is influenced by what goes on in its enviroment. Unless he says why what he says is proof of free will, I remain unconvinced.

First, If the christian's really had free will and were able to make any other choice then what his god knew in advance then his god would not be omniscient.
Second if their god lacks the power of being omniscient, then he is not omnipotent.

Either christians have an omniscient and omnipotent god and no free will, or christians really do have free will and their god is neither omnipotent nor omniscient, so what makes him a god?
Alright, I have an extremely limited vocabulary regarding these things, and my mind mostly works in images. Also, I don't think I've come to a conclusion myself, but I would like to express my thoughts on the matter.

I like to view my sentient reality at different levels. Of course, at the lowest levels, I see myself as a human. An object. Unlike most objects, I can move, I can react, and most importantly, I can react randomly. Or seemingly randomly. I wouldn't say how I react is constrained, but rather being determined actively based on past develops relevant to me. My birth, my body, my upbringing, and all other experiences in general. I can determine that based on this, my life exists within strict constraints, though it is not completely constrained.

Zooming the camera out more I see my existence and the universe as a dot. I also see my life the same way.

I will die, and the universe will end. What has been is what was and nothing more has happened, no could anyone argue with proof that anything else could have happened. I will die and I will never be able to change any decision made in my past. There is no future, only the current moment. I can't decide to try two different choices in the future. I am completely constrained within the dot that I exist. The dot that resembles my life. Or, the universe is constrained within the dot that is its own life.

I am interested in the "Multiple dimensions" theory. It's the only possibility I can imagine that negates the mindset of complete restraint at the highest levels. I believe in free will, but it seems to only exist at the lowest level of our existence. It might be insignificant. Even if there are different possibilities regarding our choices, we would only effect the world at a human level. But that is still the ability to change, even if under extreme limitations.

Alright, my mind's clogged right now. I'll need to consider what I've said and determine if I agree with it all myself. I hope someone could shed some of their own light on my views here. Like I stated earlier, it's not complete, and I'm still open to agree or disagree further.
While you logic seems inescapable, so does the ontological argument for the existence of God, and we knwo how that works out.
I would argue back at you with chaos theory and Mandelbrot fractals. They both prove to me that we can have rules and laws that lead to a certain set of outcomes, and all outcomes will be influenced by these laws, but in systems of a certain complexity,we cannot ever predict the outcome. Unpredictability makes it impossible to tell what will happen next with people or large parts of the world. Not knowing whats going to happen for any given decision is close enough to free will anyway, because it is impossible to tell the difference between the two. It is impossible to prove one way or another for sure. So why does it matter one way or another? If there is no difference at all, if we'll never know and can't prove it, I'll stick with the one that feels most true to my experience, which is free will.
Sounds like a god-believers argument. They believe in god because the feel they have experienced god, that it is most true to their experience.

Also, the lack of being able to predict something because you are unable to gather and calculate all the variables and saying that because of this you "not knowing what is going to happen" is close to free-will is absurd. If anything, it reflects quite the opposite, a system that is out of your control, an environment in which you do not have freedom of will over.

Just because you cannot predict the outcome of a complex system, does not mean you have free-will. That complex system could very well be deterministic, it is just to complex for you to gather and calculate all the variables. This does not render any freedom of will.
I agree with you, TJ. Of course, you already know that, from sticking with this thread since last July. It sure has been interesting, so far...glad I started it.
My argument is not that it is the same is free will. Its that I don't care, and don't see how anyone can. If you don't have the information as to the outcome, if it is impossible to predict outcomes, if you can't predict an outcome base don the deterministic system, ten it doesn't matter which one is true because you can't prove it. That my friend is not belief, but science, don't believe something you cannot prove. you cannot prove determinism. You cannot prove free will. At that point, I think we can all come up with our own conclusions based on experience.




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