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 don't understand how you came to the conclusion that on a macro perspective determinism doesn't work.  My understanding would follow as such.

~our minds operate in the same fashion as computers.  They are advanced processors that use information acquired or programmed to make decisions directly based off of said information.

~The events we go through in life determine who we become, and the actions that result from the personality that develops.  The field of psychology operates off of the notion that our actions/reactions are based off of root causes and interpretations of our environment~ ie, ultimately, there are no random behaviors, only intricately formed ones.  Bad "hardware" [improper chemical balances, improperly formed lobes] can produce results that seem random, but can then be reduced, as far as we can understand, to those faulty processes in the brain.

~seeing as how our lives are merely a collection of events, our lives act as programming into the computer that is our minds.  while it may seem like we have choice, that is an illusion.  if one's experiences in life do not equal the sum total of an action in some way, that action is not a valid option for the individual.  the only problem with this is testability, for unless the options are known already, there is no way to measure whether a reaction fits into the predetermined pattern.

~ so seeing as how we, according to our "programming," react and therefore grow accordingly, there really is no choice to our actions or ideas, they are merely the result of the millions of instances of programming that we have experienced so far in our lives.  We have no completely random behaviors~ actions can be "coerced" due to the environment and our perception of such.

 [edited for content and grammar]

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
UGH~ I will watch that video this morning, but I think I already know the basis..  What prompted my thread was the debate the non prophets had a couple years ago (running through all their old podcasts) so I will watch and reply, I am just hoping its not soft determinism

Ok, well interesting video of Dennett.  My problem is that it really doesn't address what I'm trying to get at, which is this;  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.


~ I guess what I am really getting at is this~  when we have actions that are what we suppose to be random, or the quarks that give people their individuality and uniqueness, are they really random at all?

My question isn't geared towards what hasn't happened yet or the concept of a set future; thats ridiculous, because to understand that one would have to know what the set future was already.  I want to know whether or not we really have a choice in being who we are, and the decisions we have already made, not if the future is in some way set in stone.

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. 

I think that is at the heart of this~ because the conventional idea of free will isn't really free will at all.   can we consciously make choices? well yeah, duh.  but do those choices have a chain of causes that can be traced? Yes as well.  so, if they have discernible causes, are they really choices?  Hmmmmm... thats what this all really boils down to.  I think that you are right about the wording, although I saw Dennett's discussion being more about predetermination than assessing actions in the past~ And while I guess through the deterministic point of view you should be able to "tell the future," it would seem to me that that is an over-simplification of the circumstances.  could we determine someone's future actions with a powerful computer that knew every event in someone's life and and had the correct computational power to calculate the stochasticity and likely-hood of events and reactions; I would see that as quite possible.
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.


just fyi this discussion was picked up in another thread called the end of free will? in the origins group.  some quick answers for you.

[in order of your post]

yes, the casual progression would not be linear.  I was thinking about it today, and was floored by the weird symmetrical beauty of it~ the link would look like certain events branching and spiderwebbing to an event(s) and yet at the same time that event would have the same spiderwebbing, branching emanating from it.  In point, looking at it from cause(s) and reaction, both have the same symmetry, but in reverse. [my attempt at reification may be lacking] 

Yes, the question of what definition "free will" should have is an issue I've tried to address in the thread I mentioned above.  for all intents and purposes I would define free will as "actions that have no cause~ acting outside of the realm of cause and effect."

>Why would a free choice be any less free because it has a more or less determinable origin?

~ With the definition I provided above ( I know this question wasn't applied to that definition)  if a choice is a result of causality, it isn't really a choice..  It is an illusion of a choice.  If you were told many major events in your life that would happen up until your eventual death, would you consider it to be your life knowing the things that happened were determined before hand?(Its more rhetorical, yes, I understand that if someone were alive they would consider it their life....)

>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?


>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.

~ I'm pretty sure that is my case and point.  but you said it best in "cannot therefore exist"

The common definition of free will does not exist. cannot exist.  thats what I'm saying.


As for your last paragraph, I find it neither here nor there.  Yes, we make 'decisions' all the time.  They are ultimately predictable, if not on a level that we can comprehend at the moment.  if they are predictable, then they aren't choices at all, only the illusion of choices.


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.


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