"I think therefore I am." Descarte's most basic tenet of free will. But how "free" is it?The more I study this and make observations of the people around me, the more I am convinced that free will is nothing more than an illusion.


"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C. Clarke.


Now let me rephrase Clarke's third law in context of this discussion:


"Any sufficiently complex memoryplex is indistinguishable from free will."


Note the phrase memoryplex, not memeplex. I'm referring here to our collective memories from the earliest retained memory right up to this instant. That instant has now passed (a few milliseconds ago) and as you continue to read, those instants are similarly passing into your collective memoryplex.


If our decisions are based on what we know (assuming that we're not mentally ill) and what we know is the memories we have formed, then free will simply isn't.


I've thought about this for some time now and I'm only summarising here, but if this is correct, it has frightening implications. For instance, what you've just read, based on what you already know, has influenced you - and you have no choice in what you're about to do: reply, ignore, digest, etc... everything is based on your experience to date plus this last few dozen words of argument.


So how "free" is your will?

Tags: free will

Views: 215

Replies to This Discussion

I have hard time believing that my decision to go back to school was not an act of free will.

can you trace it back to other decisions that you've made?  maybe feeling like you need to continue your education?  well, that might have come from education being bolstered in your youth, or you reaching that conclusion from other experiences.  the point really is that "true free will" would entail someone doing something that is completely random in nature~ if its not random, then it can be predicted.  the basis of human psychology is that experiences determine how a person will act/react and that most traits of a human being can be reduced to the reactions of earlier experiences.  So unless you'd never even heard of education before, and just randomly got on a plane, flew to a city you'd never heard of and enrolled in school, you returning isn't really an act of free will.


really though, free will is a null and void concept that is used mostly as an archetype/theme for entertainment~ it has no practical definition or application in the study of the human mind.

your "hard time believing" is undoubtedly due to the lifetime you have been told your choices were entirely up to you to make. of course your decisions were determined. you already had the desire to learn, to improve yourself, to acheive something with your life, to succeed, to make your life better. going back to school was attractive to you for all these reasons and probably more, while not going back to school meant that you would have to give up some of your dreams and let them die. you were born with the motivation to be "spirited", to want to do and be as fully as possible, and this means forcing (or "willing") your way ahead through life and its obstacles. you obviously didn't want to just let life pass you by. sounds like a highly-adapted trait to me.
Actually, I am trying to improve my skill-set to make me more marketable in this shithole of an economy.  I am a librarian and libraries are becoming more automated so, i hoping this will give me more options.
Well good luck to you! That is a perfectly good reason.
Thanks. :)

Not just a librarian, Susan. You're an intellectual of some note - and that can always find a new path.


I feel for the "unemployed plasterer" or the "unemployed painter" or any unemployed person who self-describes by their skill-set; unemployed is just that. I am whatever I can get paid for doing.

Not just a librarian, Susan. You're an intellectual of some note



I'm blushing.  Flatterer.

Not at all - I am British, after all.


But the evidence is in what you write, Susan.

Well there you go.  all you have to do is play the child's game "why" and it will help elucidate the fact that nothing we do is random, every thing is a causality, and thus we have no "free" will.  but don't let that get you down, free will was just a concept propagated through religion to combat the fact that if God is all knowing and has a plan, then he is responsible for all the bad things that happen as well as the good things too.


(I know that the idea of "free will" predates christianity, I'm speaking more in popular culture and in american society that the concept of free will has become accepted through apologetics, not that it is entirely original because of that.)

Park as you've also raised this issue, would you not also agree that given what "we" know, this is a pretty convincing argument for the non-existence of god(s).

I think what makes us special are our mirror neurons - something that has fascinated me since I discovered them. "Monkey see - Monkey do" (only, neither monkey nor most apes, actually do.)

I retired from the library a few years ago. I would love to work just part time but even that is not possible in this economy.  Good luck to you.


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