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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from wiki: Determinism is the philosophical proposition that every event, including human cognition and behaviour, decision and action, is causally determined by an unbroken chain of prior occurrences.

But we DO have control over our own actions. I'm a compatibilist as well as a determinist (again, from wiki:) Compatibilism is the belief that free will and determinism are compatible ideas, and that it is possible to believe both without being logically inconsistent.

I do not believe in the mystical/supernatural/vague/logically inconsistent sense of "free will", because I'm a determinist. However, I do believe in a more general (yet more specific and well-defined) sense of free will, one which is pretty self-evident. In this sense, people (and animals) have free will under many circumstances because they are not being forced to do anything by another person/animal, or because they could in principle choose to do something else. You don't have free will when it comes to gravity or the laws of nature, but you do have "free will" when it comes to choosing whether to kick the next homeless person you see or whether to give him/her 5 dollars.

As for punishment, I would argue that we first need to figure out WHY we people hold accountable for their actions. Is it because any good directly comes out of punishing someone for something they did in the past? I don't think so, at least not directly. The real reason why we punish people is so that they don't do whatever it is they did again, and so that others don't do those things either. It's a fact that people learn, and as long as the person could (in principle) have done something more sensible/desirable, it is right to punish them.
Laws and penalties are in place to condition us to act a certain way, if one doesn’t act that certain way anyways because other conditions have determined them not to, then they are determined to face the penalties. Them having to face the penalties is designed to reinforce and strengthen the stimuli to increase the conditioning effectiveness of these laws for others. When a person is found guilty, they are guilty of breaking a law in which they had no choice but to break (no free-will). The real failure is on the deterrence systems part as the conditions set in place didn’t work. However, even the systems failure was determined, so it can’t be blamed either. However, the result is that when the law punishes someone, the person being punished is just collateral damage in a cause that has a greater agenda then just the individual.

Take one who has murdered another. In a deterministic environment, the murderer didn’t choose to think those thoughts nor choose to act on them. The thoughts were determined by the conditions of his environment, and the determined thoughts determined his actions. “He” is just the product of his biology’s reaction to his accumulated experiences with his environment. We can’t blame him for being determined to that course. What we are in effect doing with laws and consequences is conditioning people to behave in a way we have deemed appropriate. If they act against the conditions we’ve set forth anyways, we know that there were conditions greater then the ones we’ve put in place that caused that individual to behave the way they did. By making them faces the consequences we strengthen the effect of the conditions we’ve put in place as it serves as a model for others and that individual for future incidents. But was he really to blame, probably not.

This is how laws function from a determinist point of view. However, as you can see in court, People are held responsible for their actions as though they had free-will, as if they had a choice. Some people are thought to be bad people, while others are thought to be good or ordinary people who simply carried out “bad” actions. Carry out too many “bad” or “very bad” actions (”bad” as determined by society) and you may be considered a entirely “bad person.” Because, you are thought to of had control, had free will to choose to be good or bad.

Where from a deterministic point of view, there are no good or bad people or good or bad actions, just actions and reactions, no value. Just as your being came to exist as determined by the conditions of the environment, your action are determined by the conditions of the environment. Everything moved by cause and effect. Not by some mysterious, uninfluenced, uncaused, personally controlled free-will.
From a deterministic point of view, laws are put in place because of a chain of emerging causes that goes all the way back to the big bang. You speak as if anyone had a choice as to why they were put in place. Therefore, there are causes and effects for the shape of the universe at any given time - but no 'reason' for anything at all.

Why do we want to punish people who commit crimes? Justice is a part of our nature, we seek it.


If the universe was deterministic though, we would have to keep people who commit crimes away from society, at least those that murder, rape, etc... So in practice, with or without free will, the result will ultimately be the same.


Determinists believe that all matter, even our actions and our nature obey physical laws, including that of causality.

I see no reason to believe that we have free-will. If the world wasn’t deterministic, would we be able to make any accurate predictions at all? (Of course without simply guessing and then just getting it right by chance.)
Would there be any order in a non-causal, non-deterministic world?

An answer I got in agreement before to this questions was, "In an indeterministic world we might have trouble predicting if I could walk across the park. With my first step I end up at a football stadium in Denver and I get trampled by the offensive line of the San Diego Chargers. By the time I reach my feet the scene is the Coliseum in Rome. Fortunately, before the lions close in, my shoe transforms into a neutron bomb and obliterates the threatening felines. But before PETA can even sue me for killing the cats, I find myself transported to the surface of the sun where I am burnt to a cinder in less than a second."

Also, this "randomness" that quantum mechanic suggest doesn't do any good for the the argument for free-will. We have no more control over randomness then we do a strict deterministic environment.
I honestly don't understand determinism, I guess. A drinking glass sitting on the table will tend to remain in place. Gravity, you know. But, my hand can reach down and pick up the glass. I have BECOME the cause. I have determined the motion of the glass. What is it, though, that moved my hand to raise the glass, if not my will to do so? You can argue, of course, that there is a process at play here, my brain, my neuromuscular system, neurons firing, learned behavior, etc. But, this illusion of control that I have is quite convincing, nevertheless.
Well, you said it yourself. It's an illusion.

Well, sort of. I don't think it's REALLY an illusion, because one doesn't (or at least I don't) feel like the decision to pick up the glass of water was completely random. As Ruth Dickson pointed out, you can usually trace every thought and idea that came to you and led you to think/behave the way you presently do. The point of determinism is that your very will to do something was caused by something else. In this case it might have been* your throat feeling dry, which triggered your hypothalamus (I think) which through various processes made you consciously aware you require hydration, which reminded you there was a glass of water in the table, blah motor cortex blah motor neuron blah grip the glass blah.... The point is that your will is caused, and all the things which cause your will are deterministic.
What interests me about determinism is that, in extension of its logic you and I don't exist either. If we consist of completely physical components, then what was once you or I is now part of a blade of grass, or a tiny bit of the upper atmosphere, or a speck of desert sand, or a bit of a baby across the world, or perhaps our parts have left the earth all together.

We aren't made of static "stuff", not even our cells. None of the "stuff" that was you when you were born is still there! Then end result of this train of thought is that everything is an illusion. Life is an illusion, death is an illusion, birth is an illusion, the entire human experience is an illusion.

If we look even further, we can say that nothing truly exists other than matter and empty space.
How does determinism imply this? This sounds more like "Physicalism" or "materialism."
Why is life, death, etc. an "illusion" just because the "stuff" we are made of is still extant, in one form or another? Since neither matter nor energy can be created or destroyed, it seems apparent that our "stuff" has always been here, and will always be here, somewhere and in some form. What's illusory about that?
If we take determinism as:

A.) In the classical model of Newtonian Physics - all events occur in a predictable, mechanical, material manner.
B.) All events are caused by a prior chain of events
C.) We are made up of "stuff" i.e. atoms, particles, etc. just like everything else which is bound to the predetermined, mechanical laws of physics.

Either one of these two things must be true:

1. There was a first cause (Big Bang / Creation Event / Some Other 1st)
2. There wasn't a first cause and things have always been this way and will always be this way. (Infinite loop / Universe can exist only if it has already ended)

If there was a first cause, then, if we knew every single physical law in existence, logically we could determine the future of the universe down to every event and every particle. This would mean, according to deterministic logic, that the future is entirely predetermined and that each and every human experience including life and death and everything else, like free will, is simply an illusion of predetermined senses interacting within a predetermined framework of causality.

We, and everything else would be an illusion consisting of the particular predetermined and causal arrangement of the stuff everything is made of at one given snapshot of time.

The arrangements of each particle and all of the "stuff" in the universe would be a part of a continuous chain of events which follow the laws of Newtonian physics. Anything that would be "yours" or "you" would be an illusion, because there is no difference between "you" and any other predetermined arrangement of particles in the universe. Your mind perceives itself as being something, only because it has been determined to be so in this deterministic world view. Thus, thought is an illusion. There is no thought, only the interaction of predetermined particles, in a predictable finite, unchanging manner.

The future cannot be changed in this deterministic world view, because the future has already been caused by the past. Thus, voluntary action is an illusion. Remember, each action has already been caused by prior actions.

See what I mean?
I see where you are going with this. It seems to be touching on monism, dualism, and pluralism now. I agree with you on our equality with all other things in that we are all made up of the same stuff, and our "oneness" if you will, in being made of the same matter and being moved in the same collection of events as everything else.

However, Even though this "stuff" is part of a continuous chain of events doesn't mean that "nothing truly exists" or that everything is an illusion. If what "you" are now changes every moment, still within each moment, within each "snapshot of time," the "you" at that time existed, and even though "you" changes as determined by the deterministic environment, you still exist, just with each moment, it is a new you, a new collection.

I agree with you that free-will is an illusion.



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