A Conversation for Free Will versus Determinism

Free Will

Post 1


I liked your essay on free will vs. determinism. I've always been very skeptical about fatalism or determinism.

That would mean that God (or superior being) had foreseen or planned several things:

1) the movie 'Gigli' - no superior being would've let this happen. Only free will can explain this - it had to have been done on purpose.

2) the pretzel in the White House??

3) Pauly Shore, Carrottop, Gallagher ... need I elaborate??

I have to believe in free will ... I like to think we have some control ... and certain things aren't foreordained .. someone did them on purpose (i.e., the "sexed-up" dossier.)

Free Will

Post 2


yes, but why did they do it?

My point being they did it for a series of physical reasons, in response to physical events.
You may or may not decide what to do, but whether you succeed or not is not up to you, that is decided by a number of factors, hence the various thought processes that go on wothout you knowing.
Therefore you cannot be held responsible for the outcome of your actions since you are acting automatically in response to something outwith your control.
Hence no free will.

The chain of events responsible for this, is extreemly complicated and long, however it is the reason why you can tell the outcome of WW2 by examining the history of any period beforehand.
In a fixed set of events you cannot have randominity. You definitely should not be able to explain complicated chains of events with history pre-dating the 'free choice' in a free will universe.
Unfortunately for the effort and free will theories, in this universe you can explain 'free choices' with previous events in the universe.

Saying that someone did something because they felt like it is a child's answer to a complicated question.

It's like saying the sky is blue simply because that's the way it is, without an explenatin of light diffraction etc.

Lets have some philisophical sense please!smiley - biggrin

Free Will

Post 3


Apology ahead of time for the long ranting reply (major divisions indicated with popcorn)... feel free to skip it if you don't have the stomach for the ramblings of an overeducated stoner smiley - cdouble

smiley - popcorn

smiley - bigeyes It's funny... the first post in this thread is essentially the Problem of Suffering argument made against the existence of an omnibenevolent omnipotent God, the same argument that's been running since before it occurred to someone to write the Book of Job, only in our current version, we have the Comedy of Carrottop taking the place of The Senseless Death of Innocent Children in the role of Counterexample. smiley - yikes Irony will get you far my son... almost to the top... but will it keep you warm? smiley - snowman

smiley - popcorn

Anyway, Matmilne, as for the total illogic of the Free Will hypothesis... I believe we agree on all points related to causation - everything's fully determined, so there's "no room" for Free Will to enter the picture. (I think that's behind what you're saying, sorry if I put the wrong words in your mouth...)


First off, brains are stupendously complicated machines, and we are roughly 0% of the way towards understanding them. As our analysis gets more and more fine-grained, we reach a point beyond which we must consider the decisions of individuals to take place inside a Black Box - essentially unknowable, even to the individual in question.

Amy: "Why did you say that?" Bob: "I honestly have no idea, I just felt like saying it." Bob's answer can be improved, of course, with a little self-knowledge, but at some point, even he must throw up his hands and say, "I just don't know. I can't tell precisely why the influence of one set of experiences managed to hold greater sway over my active will than the contrary influence of another set of experiences, which would have had me refrain from biting the Archbishop, like I do roughly 50% of the time, I just don't know which 50%"

At which point we realize that Bob is weird, and we stop talking to him.

So, the appearance of Free Will in ourselves and in others is partly due to the Black Box nature of human behaviour, given our present state of knowledge about Psychology, Neuro-physiology, etc.

smiley - popcorn

Secondly, and this may contradict the first point, if you talk to educated, thoughtful people about the Question of Free Will - and I have - their most common position, when backed against the wall, seems to be this: "We each have the experience of being more or less self-aware, reflective, self-analytic, etc. When we are more aware of our motivations, then those motivations become part of our conscious knowledge about ourselves in whatever situation. This provides our conscious reason access to them, and we become able to make higher level decisions, e.g., I'm going to make an effort to refrain from biting the Archbishop, and I might even take steps to avoid being in the room with him."

So Bob is using the concept of Free Will not to describe actions that are undetermined, but actions that are determined with the influence of conscious, rational thought. He finds it useful to distinguish those from actions that are determined wholly unconsciously, and he feels that the label "Free Will" is a good one with which to make that distinction. This is a different definition of Free Will than any that is opposed to determinism, and it seems to be what most people mean by the word.

I hope that doesn't invalidate most of this entry...

smiley - popcorn

There's still this child, tugging at our khakis and asking why the sky is orange. Is is possible that "That's just the way it is, isn't it beautiful?" or even "Because God made it that way" could be a more psychologically satisfying answer to that child than "Well, let me tell you about diffraction..."

smiley - bluefishsmiley - orangefishsmiley - bluefishsmiley - orangefish

Even if you tell her all about diffraction, and she understands it all, she can still ask "...but WHY is the speed of light in a vacuum constant for observers in all frames of reference... WHY does electromagnetic radiation propagate through seemingly empty space as a paradoxical medium-less wave?... WHY, ETC?" and evenutally you'll have to say "Because God made it that way" or "That's just the way it is; isn't it beautiful?"

smiley - popcorn

I hope that any of that made any sense.

smiley - peacedove
Happy holidays
GTB smiley - cheers

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