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# If there is no such thing as free will...

If there is no such thing as free will, then there can be only one possible outcome.

(Free will implies choice. And choice implies variable outcomes.)

If no outcomes can be varied, the start of an action and its invariable end are inextricably connected such that they are one and the same. One cannot be separated from the other. They are the same "thing."

How is it, then, that light can be either wave or particle depending on the "viewer" or instrument doing the observation and not independent of it? (Keeping in mind that each -- wave vs. particle -- yield different results.) [See: Double Slit Experiment, noting to watch till the end.]

Let me repeat that. The OUTCOME is wholly dependent on the viewer (or precisely, the instrument doing the viewing) and NOT independent of it. Point being... It SHOULD be independent of it since the light pattern (see experiment) has no foreknowledge or decision-making capabilities to change its pattern according to the viewer!

But that is precisely what appears to happen!

Now I know that this does not in any way prove or suggest a "free will." But it does suggest the possibility of variability in outcomes, OR that outcomes are not time dependent (meaning every "potential event" already exists).

But if every potential event already exists, i.e., outcome A and outcome B already exist, then there can in fact be more than one possible outcome. Yet, if there is no free will, there cannot exist more than one possible outcome, nor would there be a need for one.

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### Replies to This Discussion

Short answer: Quantum probabilities of an event are determined by quantum probabilities of previous events.

Longer:

The quantum indeterminism argument for free-will redefines the idea of free-will to a point where it no longer applies to all the traditional uses of the idea of free-will. This has to do with semantics.

The confusion arises because free-will is equated with choice. Those who reject free-will do not reject choice. We just reject that the choices we make follow from non-natural causes. That is, we reject "free-choice". We humans make choices all the time. The illusion of free-will is in that it implies a causative agent that is supernatural. There is no reason to suppose that the events that lead to those choices we make have supernatural causes. I admit that the semantics leave much to be desired.

A lot of research is being done to identify quantum events in brain function. A huge number of coupled quantum events in the brain are assumed by philosophers in order to propose that quantum indeterminism could offer a way for free-will to exist and exert it's effects on voluntary action. At the basis if this argument is the requirement that indeterminism causes physical interactions in the brain. The science on this is not in and as yet remains inconclusive.

But even assuming that there is quantum interactionism (where indeterminism causes voluntary action) in the brain, there is no reason to suppose that this indeterminism involves a free-agent. Here's why:

A free-will based on quantum indeterminism will have to agree to one of two sets of probabilistic rules:
1. The quantum events in the brain are based on complete probabilities. Such a system would require random neural interactions. In such a system when a quantum event in the brain is resolved the result would be completely random. This is obviously not the case. Intentions have regular outcomes in the brain, determinable by physiology.
2. The other option is that quantum events have incomplete probabilities. In such a system, random outcomes are replaced by regular neural outcomes. Since this is validated by observation (and quantum physics theory in general), this is the only possible way for quantum effects to occur in our brains, assuming that they do. In such a model of quantum mechanics, all quantum events have quantum probabilities and the quantum probabilities of an event are determined by the quantum probabilities of previous events and so on. There is nothing "free" or cause-less here.

Thus, quantum indeterminism does not address the idea of free-will as is traditionally believed- a cause-less supernatural origin for human choice. Our choices are determined by natural causes, even if the probabilities of those causes may be incalculable.
Those who reject free-will do not reject choice. We just reject that the choices we make follow from non-natural causes.

The illusion of free-will is in that it implies a causative agent that is supernatural.

Okay, I think I may have totally misrepresented something. There is nothing in what I'm talking about that alludes to any supernatural intervention at all (as that would certainly not be a free choice). And that's not what I'm suggesting. In fact, I am not talking about or suggesting a supernatural agency whatsoever.

I'm talking about the possibility of completely non-deterministic action based purely on the possibility of the existence of a random event. It has nothing to do with any gods or supernatural forces.

In a nutshell I'm asking can an event be truly random, that is literally unpredictable within the efficacy of the universe? Is there a "state" of the universe where cause / effect mechanics fail?

If there is, then it is possible to make choices not based on any causation whatsoever. Such a choice would be literally free of causation.
This is what I was trying to say in the last part. Quantum physics does not imply that quantum events are random, because the probabilities of quantum events are determined by the probabilities of previous quantum events.

Brain events are regular, not random. So are quantum events. It is a mistake to think of either brain events or quantum events as random. BUT EVEN IF THEY WERE RANDOM, HOW DOES THAT IMPLY "FREE-WILL"?

This whole thing is immaterial to the idea of free-will as is commonly understood. "Free-will" implies a supernatural control of one's choice mechanisms. As a member of another board put it, what freedom of choice does indeterminism give you? This is why I said the quantum indeterminism argument redefines the concept of free-will (as random in this case).

Both randomness and causality imply a lack of free-will. Since all events must either be random or be caused, free-will is a supernatural concept.
In response to this part of your post:

"Okay, I think I may have totally misrepresented something. There is nothing in what I'm talking about that alludes to any supernatural intervention at all (as that would certainly not be a free choice). And that's not what I'm suggesting. In fact, I am not talking about or suggesting a supernatural agency whatsoever."

I did not say that your statements about randomness and quantum indeterminism are supernatural concepts. I was saying that free-will is a supernatural concept. You misread my statements and thought that I was implying that you were suggesting a supernatural concept when I was clearly talking about free-will itself and not your interpretation of quantum indeterminism.
I'm stuck. I'm still trying to wrap my head around "The illusion of free-will is in that it implies a causative agent that is supernatural."

I'm just not getting it. How does free-will (or the illusion of it) imply a supernatural causative agent?

To me, free-will implies the ability to make a choice that is not already determined. That is to say, to decide an outcome that is truly open-ended.

EVEN IF there was a causative supernatural agent, wouldn't that agent represent a "determined" outcome according to its decision? The only way that answer could be "No" would be if its decision were truly random. (Because otherwise it would simply be another mundane variable in the sum of causative elements leading to an inevitable outcome.)

And so, to me, the fulcrum that leverages free-will is "does the possibility of an open-ended opportunity actually exist?" This is what I am describing as "random".

If there is such a thing as random, then we need only base our decision (by virtue of choice -- and thus free will) on a random event. No god or supernatural agent necessary.
-----------------

Note, just as an aside (a related snip):

“That strikes many people as incoherent,” said Dr. Silberstein, who 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,” he said.

And you said:
"Both randomness and causality imply a lack of free-will. Since all events must either be random or be caused, free-will is a supernatural concept."

I'm saying:
The part between "...random or be caused," and "...free-will is a supernatural concept" needs an explanation. I don't get the implied "therefore" connecting the two.

Also, I do understand you both when you say: "Both are bad news for free will".. because: if random, it's not your choice; if determined, it's not your choice.

I'm suggesting a freely made choice based on a random event, thus WE become the free agent to an open-ended decision. (Again, no gods necessary.)
OK, we are talking about different ideas of free-will. I'm referring to classical free-will which is the basis of much of society's maladies and you are referring to one case of compatibilist free-will.

Compatibilist free-will can take many forms. It attempts to bury it's redundant nature by attributing it's effect to a gap in human knowledge. In order to do this one alters the popular definition of free-will. This is sort of like when Deepak Chopra alters the meaning of God in order to define it as a "the memory field of the universe". We are not addressing these compatibilist versions of free-will here.

In popular society, free-will is the rational control of one's decisions. The reason it is culturally held in high esteem is because it is often believed to be unique to humans. It is believed that there is something beyond the mechanistic physical body that exists and accords decision-making intelligence - that is, something supernatural. Free-will, most believers say, makes us different from animals. Almost all would say that it makes us different from computers and they will say so even when computers someday "think" and make very human-like choices purely from a mechanistic rulebook, albeit a plastic and adaptable one. This standard idea of free-will is an unnecessary hypothesis. Remember Newton's theories of planetary motion, Napoleon's question to and Laplace and the latter's “I have no need for that hypothesis, sire”? The thing that prevents humans from seeing that the purely mechanistic basis of human choice can explain all of human choice (and that the hypothesis of a free-agent is unnecessary), is a deep intuition- an emotional illusion- that our sentient self is non-physical.

This is how free-will is understood in popular culture. It is inherently a supernatural concept. This sort of free-will implies the control of one's choices, independent of the material conditions that obviously determine human choices. This is an objective claim, unlike most compatibilist versions of free-will which are redefined in metaphorical human terms. Keep in mind the popular definition of objective free-will. I am not arguing against a compatibilist (metaphorical) idea of free-will, which you are talking about. I am only concerned with the popular delusion of CONTRA-CAUSAL FREE-WILL.

Many compatibilist philosophers do the same thing that you do- redefining the popular conception of free-will that has been defined objectively by traditional religious philosophy, using a subjective (metaphorical) criteria. We are not concerned with this altered version of free-will. That definition of free-will is not what causes the untold confusion in politics, academia and society that we rationalists are concerned about. The fact that popular free-will makes objective claims about nature is why it can be identified by naturalistic philosophy as being an illusion. Compatibilist claims of free-will avoid this problem by redefining the popular concept of free-will in metaphorical terms.

For example you say:

"If there is such a thing as random, then we need only base our decision (by virtue of choice -- and thus free will) on a random event. No god or supernatural agent necessary."

You present the random event (that you hypothesize) as occurring before the decision is made. But the act of making the decision itself is the action of making a choice. According to traditional definition, this choice is fully controlled by intelligent processes. If you claim that the decision was made after the random event, then you need to describe what caused the decision and we are back at square one. If you claim that the random event caused the decision, then that violates the traditional idea of free-will (because there is no "control" of that choice).

The closest you can come to free-will here is to push back the decision-making process to a later stage in the chain, and not address it at all in the definition of free-will. In essence, redefining the popular conception of free-will (as a compatibilist would).

But again, this is all beside the point, because randomness is a subjective concept. To the universe there is nothing random about quantum events.

Like I said before, quantum events are not exactly random events. Although I have talked about why even if quantum events were random there would still not be any free-will, this is just arguing after the fact. Technically, science does not allow for pure random events. For events to be natural, they must have natural causes that are deterministic. Some events, like quantum events do not follow the deterministic laws that apply to our universe. They follow deterministic laws set down by quantum physics. Since in quantum indeterminism the probabilities of an event are incalculable by anything less than a computer that can formulate and crunch an equation describing the entire universe, we simply refer to this indeterminism as random. It is random in subjective terms. Speaking in objective terms, it is deterministic. Therefore since all events are caused naturally, free-will either doesn't exist (because random events don't exist) or is a supernatural concept.

So in closing, randomness has nothing to do with free-will.
But it doesn't matter anyway because randomness doesn't really exist.
I've been a bit slow on the up-tick with this because I have been trying to absorb everything you've been saying, some of which I'm not sure follows (noting my lack of knowledge or ability to explain or understand, not yours).

For starters, I've been trying to find the "Classical Free Will" understanding you've been talking about that implies, inherently, a supernatural causative agent. Currently I'm about a third into a particular treatise Compatibilism and the Problem of Free Will, a Stanford .edu paper. It was sourced from Wikipedia on the subject.

It defines all the requisite terms of the subject up front and nowhere in it is the word "supernatural" (via a search) though I'm not done with it yet and so it might imply such a requirement in a conclusion (but so far not as part of a definition).

In addition, the definition of free-will this paper gives is congruent with my understanding. I stated it in plain terms in my second comment as: "To me, free-will implies the ability to make a choice that is not already determined. That is to say, to decide an outcome that is truly open-ended."

You wrote:

OK, we are talking about different ideas of free-will. I'm referring to classical free-will which is the basis of much of society's maladies and you are referring to one case of compatibilist free-will.

For the record, I think I fall into the incompatibilist hard determinist camp. That is to say, I can conceive of no event (action, decision, or otherwise) that has not before it a requisite cause or set of causes. I wanted to point that out when I stated:

"If no outcomes can be varied, the start of an action and its invariable end are inextricably connected such that they are one and the same. One cannot be separated from the other. They are the same "thing."

The article states it as follows:

"...that the facts of the past, in conjunction with the laws of nature, entail every truth about the future. According to this characterization, if determinism is true, then, given the actual past, and holding fixed the laws of nature, only one future is possible at any moment in time."

And so what I'm truly trying to examine is actually your last statement. Can randomness actually exist. The reason I ask is because if it can exist, we need only base a decision on that, instead of a mechanical decision based on prior causative events.

In other words, I'm trying to decouple the mechanical universe of cause/effect into a possible universe that includes variation with the same set of historical causes. Is this possible?

Dennett apparently thinks so, I'll have to read Freedom Evolves. Here's a snip from Wikipedia on Necessary and Sufficient causes:

"As Daniel Dennett points out in Freedom Evolves, it is possible for everything to have a necessary cause, even while indeterminism holds and the future is open, because a necessary cause does not lead to a single inevitable effect. Thus "everything (does not) have a cause" is not a clear statement of (in)determinism."

But your comments and insights are most rewarding. I just have to do a bit more homework on the concept of free will. Interestingly enough, up front in the Stanford paper, it states...

"It would be misleading to specify a strict definition of free will since in the philosophical work devoted to this notion there is probably no single concept of it."

And that's the very first sentence!

PS: You wrote: "You present the random event (that you hypothesize) as occurring before the decision is made. But the act of making the decision itself is the action of making a choice."

I'm merely suggesting making a decision (beforehand) based on the outcome of a random event. I.e., I'm approaching a cross-roads, and I've already decided that if 'random generator' outputs "A" I'll take the left road, if it outputs "B" I'll take the right road.

In this fashion (assuming there is truly a such thing as random), I have decoupled all mechanical causes leading me to a specific outcome. This makes the future variable, and no longer "subject to" the efficacy of cause and effect from the past. (Random events aren't subject to prior events.)

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