Do you believe that humans have free will?  I don't.  I have yet to hear compelling arguments for the existence of free will~ prove me wrong A/N.

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Can't prove you wrong.  But, I can suggest your view is incomplete.  The universe is like an elephant and we are like blind people trying to decide what we are touching when we try to make sense of it.  You have grabbed a leg and decided the whole thing is a tree.  From your perspective, this is true.


From an individual perspective, free will is difficult to defend as a concept.  The factors that determine how we will make up our minds about things were almost all determined before any of was old enough to think for ourselves. 


On the other hand, there is absolutely no doubt that a change in laws or other conditions will cause people to change their behavior.  This clearly shows that people do have some control over their behavior.  It may not be free will in the religious sense, but it clearly shows that, at least when determining public policy, determinism is not the rule.


In short, from a micro perspective, there is no free will; but from a macro perspective, determinism is invalid.

I think you understand what I mean, but you are still focused on the individual.  Where I think others go wrong is in thinking that determinism should be the basis for public policy--the idea that people can't help themselves, therefore punitive rules shouldn't exist. 


Punitive rules and other public policy decisions should be made as if free will does exist in order to change the environment in a way that encourages more people to avoid actions that would be harmful. 


Usually, people who are believers in free will are those who are very much in favor of such punitive measures (and usually lacking in empathy).


Your response below brings up another point.  I don't think there is any such thing as free will in a the pure sense.  I think the future is probably just as fixed as any other dimension.  But, from our perspective, it isn't. We can't see it and we can't begin to guess what it is in most cases.  There are just too many factors involved.


So, from what may be the two most important perspectives in our lives, 1. how we live our lives and 2. how we organize our society, we should act as if "free will" is a decent but imprecise description of how we act.


I should say, though, that I do think it is very important to realize the true free will does not exist, otherwise our vindictive natures will raise their ugly heads.

Thanks for sharing this video John D

What you are asking is if you made yourself, or if environmental circumstances shaped you into what you are. Yes?

You are a product of your environment to the extent that you let it influence how you think and act. You can move out of your current environment into a new one, but then you will have to make decisions based on those circumstances. As long as you are placing yourself in that area the free will has been yours. But then you have to act on the circumstances that you have placed yourself in. 

" While I'm typing this, do I really have a choice?  or am I only doing what I can be doing given my past.  When being confronted with that video, I only have a variety of ways that I can react given my past and its influence on my nature."


Well you have two major choices: Respond, Don't respond. The subset of that would be; Respond indepth, or give a blah answer. (Not respond left out because you could be procrasturbating or some other thing that you felt was more important or just randomly wanted to do)

So you can make a choice, if you want. Its hard to go against what you are used to doing, but you can do it. So that would be breaking the conditioning you are thinking of. 

To truly depart from what you perceive to be a loss of free will, you could just throw your computer against a wall. 

but do those choices have a chain of causes that can be traced?
I think evoking the image of a chain of events doesn't do reality's complexity any justice. If anything, events have in most cases a network of other events that have led up to them. Much like the Old English notion of wyrd.
so, if they have discernible causes, are they really choices?
What you should really ask yourself is, in a hypothetical - for you, considering you reject the notion - universe with free will, what would a truly free choice look like? How do you construe free will detached from any degree of causality whatsoever? See, until you can provide some working definition of authentic free will, how can you claim that what we experience in this universe is not it?

Why would a free choice be any less free because it has a more or less determinable origin? Are you saying that in a universe with free will individuals would live each moment as a separate experience, with no recollection from the previous moments restricting their judgement in any way? Doesn't strike me as feasible. It's not that free will doesn't exist, it's just that what most people think of as free will is logically inconsistent and cannot therefore exist.

Everything we know about the neuroscience of choice and action tells us that at any given time our brain is besieged by a plethora of alternative options involving just about anything within our field of experience. These alternatives are effectively represented in different neural processes competing with each other to reach the activation thresholds that will transform them from subconscious to conscious. You must always keep in mind that conscious processing is an exceptionally demanding process. To give you an analogy, consciousness is the Windows Vista of the brain, looks good but it's heavy and good luck if you choose to run too many programmes at the same time. The only way to preserve the illusion of real-time processing is to task subconscious processes with handling most of the computing below the conscious activation thresholds. The alternative would be to spend our time in a perennially contemplative state, unable to make a choice. Needless to say, we would never have evolved to be the primates we are.

We do have options and we do make choices every second of our lives. Most of them are simply not relevant enough to warrant conscious activation. Those that do are still the result of a network of interactions, not of simplistic chains of events. Existence is a lot more complex than that. Ultimately, however, our freedom is intact. If there is a notion that would require some rethinking, that's the notion of awareness.

Any thread is as good as any. Every time I log in on this site there's a bunch of new ones about free will. Seems to be a recurring theme among us non-believers.


Again, you claim that for an action to be considered truly free it cannot have any degree of causal relation with events that preceded it. However, you do not provide a justification as to why that has to be the only working definition of true freedom. Why would a free choice have to be entirely independent from past events, considering that we happen to live in a temporal dimension? That doesn't mean that they are easily predicted - or that they are always predictable even in principle, for that matter. There is no way to consistently predict each and every action an individual will make anywhere above chance level, because the variables at play are too many and in many ways unique for each individual. If you then reject the notion of linear causality, the only logical conclusion is that free will is safe and sound.

Having watched this video myself (just now), he does actually get at the problem that we were wondering about, only it takes until the very last minute of the video for him to do it. What he says is that there is no version of free will that is incompatible with determinism (in other words, a version of free will which is essentially meaningless) which makes any sense. So there is no version of free will that makes any sense.
Well after reading this discussion, I certainly need to be learned on a deeper level of this subject before I can make an educated response. Thank you for the prompt of thought!
with the internet
... more and more do?

I think the answer is yet to be determined.  We are just begining to peer into the physical basis for thoughts and memories.  Any opinion on the origin of agency in our conciousness must necessarily be mostly conjecture.  That said, past experience has shown that the explanation for natural phenomena has had a concrete physical basis in all cases where science has come to understanding.  Why should a person's will be any different and therefore only free in the sense that it will respond independently to outside stimulus.  Even if the basis of thought is solely chemical in nature, then there must be some element of randomness in the system.  (i.e. ? thought mutation).  Now, my free will is telling me to stop thinking so hard and grab a beer.

I would define choice as the introduction of freedom into a causal system, meaning an acausal interruption into an otherwise causal sequence (or the opposite, a causal interruption into an acausal sequence). In order to consider humans any different from rocks, we would have to be capable of such a feat. Otherwise, we are just lifeless, drifting husks of matter, acting only as we must.


DesCartes tried to posit that the pineal gland was the locus of man's ability to affect reality - where thought became action, but his guess bore no fruit (actually there are some rather interresting studies on the possible production of DMT in the pineal gland which could, in a roundabout way, end up lending some validity to Rene's theory, but hallucinogen production in the brain would only explain the feeling of choosing, not an actual means by which one might affect choice. The feeling would be an illusion. Which brings to mind a study done recently in which stimulation of the post-parietal cortex created a desire to move while, alternately, stimulation of the motor cortex triggered movement without the desire, thereby explaining at least one instance in which both the desire to move and the act of moving were created thorugh chemical stimulation.


Another study I recall, had subjects choose between pushing one of two arbitrary buttons. EEGs showed that the subject's "choice" could be predicted several seconds ahead of their physical movement, even before they were aware they had made a choice. This suggest to me that the feeling of wanting to perform an action is symptomatic of the process which causes it, rather than the feeling being the cause itself.



I never got this. What does it matter? What is free will? Knowing about it changes nothing. You'll still make the same actions. But that's just me.


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