1. Makeshift
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    Makeshift Active Member

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    Free will

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Makeshift, Jun 6, 2013.

    This is something I have spent way too much time thinking about lately. Do you think people have a free will? If not, does it matter? I think we automatically feel we do have free will and even when I start to doubt it, the feeling doesn't go away. If it's just an illusion, it's gotta be the most convincing and the most universally accepted one. Try to really think about your own thoughts. Can you really decide what your next thought is gonna be? If not, can you be really free, since your thoughts determine your actions? Even if you can do what you want, are you free if you can't decide what you want?
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    You do decide your output, but unfortunately the input data stream is something you can only influence, not really control.
     
  3. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    You have just as much free will as the universe will allow. Which is to say you might as well have. There are so many possibilities, so many combinations of stimuli, thoughts, feelings, bad/good bio-electrical impulsive actions/reactions that the likelihood of any two humans alive on the planet today would be exactly alike are nearly as vast as the number of stars in the Andromeda galaxy.
     
  4. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    This is a question that has been pondered since the pre-Socratic philosophers. People like Parmenides and Heraclitus. It essentially boils down to the question: do you believe living things are 'little gods'?

    You either have the liberal view (I've heard it called 'Libertarian', but I don't like that word in this context) that consciousness makes us these 'little gods'. Essentially the assumption here is that you have something like Heraclitus's fire to make this even possible, but I find this the most agreeable theory to me.

    You also have the Fatalism viewpoint which sets forward the idea that essentially everything has been determined from the beginning of time by mathematics.

    A third, a weird mixture of the two (which seems to be what Socrates thought, given a close reading of his works) and this is sort of loosely connected with a forth idea of Eternal Recurrence.

    This is not a simple question in the end, but Philosophy isn't the only field that has touched this either. From Oedipus Tyrannus to Macbeth and today with novels like Frankenstein, the question of free will remains unanswered.
     
  5. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I think the mistake is confusing involuntary bodily functions with lack of free will. Random thoughts occur, for example, because the brain functions in ways we still don't completely understand. So, we dream, we have sudden, unexpected (and often unwanted) recollections, we think dark thoughts. We have emotions that are shaped by, as Wreybies puts it, input that we can only partially influence. These things occur beyond our will, as does breathing, the beating of our hearts, the functioning of our organs.

    None of this changes the fact that we have the freedom to determine our own actions within the circumstances of our lives.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ...that's a given, except for those who have a mental development or disease problem that makes it impossible for them to make decisions on their own...

    ...see above...

    ...what makes you doubt it?...

    ...thoughts cannot be controlled, but that has nothing to do with 'free will' which relates only to what one chooses to do...

    ...what you think does not have to determine what you do... you can think about loving chocolate and want to eat some, but you can still choose to do so or not...

    ...you can always decide what you want to do, if you're not mentally challenged, as noted above... if you have no mental health issues, trying to tell yourself you can't decide, for one reason or another, is simply an attempt to excuse yourself for doing things you know you shouldn't, or not doing what you know you should...
     
  7. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Some people, not all, possess free will.
     
  8. Makeshift
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    Makeshift Active Member

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    I never said I couldn't decide. I'm simply saying that the decision making process is not something I can really understand. Often I do not know why I chose something instead of something else. Plus, the decisions we make are limited by our characteristics, which is something that is largely(but not completely) formed by forces beyond our control(genetics, cultural influences, childhood experiences etc.)

    BTW, I suck at quoting.
     
  9. Allan Paas
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    Allan Paas Contributing Member

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    Yes. But... A person with a free will must have an objective mind. Bias can dictate choices.
    Depends how to look at it.
    If you take the view that everything just happened then nothing at all matters. But if you look at just life and what that has been doing since it first sprouted then its a different story.
    If you didn't have free will then what would be the point of writing all this? Why would you even think about it?
    Also, if you didn't have it then it would suggest that there's some kind of a creator, a tyrannical creature many many people take as real - a god. But that's not reality.
    Not an illusion. There wouldn't be any point for it. It's like saying we are all born as slaves.
    No, you can't. Unless you know yourself and the world so well that you can determine where you will be, who you'll meet, what your mood will be like, etc. Just knowing what your next thought will be without having anything to base it on is the same as guessing at random. And hitting it spot on with randomness is not knowing your next thought, it's just being "lucky".
    What you perceive determine your thoughts, and those thoughts determine further actions.
    If you can't decide what you want you are a slave. Slavery is not freedom.
     
  10. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I'm a compatibilist, so I do think people have free will to a certain extent.

    Yes. If free will doesn't exist, are people morally responsible for their actions? For example, a criminal could argue that he isn't morally responsible for a crime he committed because he had no freedom/choice over his actions.
     
  11. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, isn't it like a hand of cards? You have several options open to you as to how you play them. Your character, skill and intelligence will influence what you do. But you can't change the cards because they are dealt out to you. And you can do whatever you want, but God knows what the outcome will be. A bit like when I used to watch my kids playing and know when they would get bored of the Playdoh and I'd have to come up with something else, just because I knew them so well.
     
  12. Makeshift
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    Makeshift Active Member

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    The board claims the message is too short, so I guess I'll add this unnecessary sentence here.
     
  13. Makeshift
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    Makeshift Active Member

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    There's the old joke where the criminal says he had to do it cause he had no free will. The judge says he agrees but still sentences him because he has no freedom of choice either. Regarding compatibilism, I forgot to bring up the issue of defining free will when I started this thread. Incompatibilism defines free will in a metaphysical sense, where one really could have done otherwise while compatibilism uses other definitions. I can't say I'm necessarily a compatibilist, but they make a lot of good points in the sense that it is a reasonable stance towards things if determinism weren't true. Just like there's different levels of freedom, there are different levels of responsibility. Basically it boils down to doing things for reasons, so-called moral competence. Children and the mentally disabled for example do not have the same level of moral competence, cause they have less understanding on the effects of their actions.
     
  14. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I was going to bring this up in my last post but forgot. The problem is that every philosopher seems to have his/her own definition of free will, which is why having a conversation about free will can be so complicated and frustrating.
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I plead Shrodinger. Everything that is predestined is also not predestined, until you let the cat out of the box.

    Free will wins as a result.
     
  16. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    I find your analogy slightly dubious, however, never underestimate a cat's ability to confound it's keeper.
     
  17. Domino
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    Domino Active Member

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    I don't have free will. I'm a slave to my conscience.
     
  18. Allan Paas
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    Allan Paas Contributing Member

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    The only way we could possibly know about someone regarded as a god is if we made it up. Someone that powerful and that, supposedly, smart and benevolent would let us develop completely on our, without giving any possibility for us to know that it exists, because, guess what, there would be those who would begin to worship it, begin to ask help from it, pray toward, and all else. Wasting time instead of doing what must be done on their own. A creature that smart and that powerful would make sure there'd be no way to know that it exists, for our sake.
    An example to make this even more solid. I, if I had just that much power and everything else was the same, would act as I described above. A "god" is supposed to be smart, smarter than all of us combined, no doubt. The ones worshiped by humans right now aren't even smarter than me. Meaning they are all made up.
    There might be some powerful beings somewhere, no way to know. But regarding them as some "gods" - a word that is, basically, synonymous with "tyrant" - would be wrong to use when regarding them. I highly doubt someone like that would like to be regarded as a god, I for one would absolutely hate it, I'd rather have myself viewed as an equal - as a person - than an object of worship, or someone to bow before.
    And why do the gods "known" by humans possess so strong human qualities, many qualities that don't even belong to one mentally much advanced, or sane for that matter. Not to mention downright psychopathic sadists.
    Not silly at all. It is silly to think a god or gods exist. This isn't some 13th century, the concepts that existed then do not apply anymore, things must be re-thought through with objectivity. Just repeating what others have repeated before is of no good to anyone. Things aren't as simple anymore, definitions of words, "god" for one, require to be looked over with a very critical eye.

    Not wishing anything, I know for a fact that we are not slaves.
    Why would you think we are? 'Cause that is the impression I am getting from you.

    It is not an opposite, it is something free will enables. If you can determine how things will go you can willingly change some factors, changing the "right" path.
    If the world was rewinded, and let play again, without changing the smallest bit, things would turn out exactly the same.
    Metaphysical free will and knowing everything are in contradiction with each other. If you knew everything there could be no unknown factors.

    This is about the mind, not about genetics. Genetics enable our mind that itself is not dependent on genetics any more than that, as one could choose to even kill oneself. That decision goes against genetics, as genes make sure one can live. The mind and body are together but they are not the same.
    Taste, any senses, are perceptions translated by the brain, and not by the part of the brain that involves free will. There's the subconscious and conscious part. Free will is about being able to determine your own life's course, the decisions you make, feeling tastes is not a decision, it is something that just is, it is part of who we are.
    The moment your characteristics are "chosen" you don't really exist yet, at that moment and years following you don't really have a mind, and your mind is what makes you you. Free will applies if you have one. The mind truly begins forming once a person is born, once the individual begins perceiving the world.
     
  19. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Why? That's taking a very mathematical view. I can't actually prove that J.R.R. Tolkien wasn't whisked off into Middle Earth where he had adventures inspiring the writing of his novels. I cannot prove that. No one can. But I know that did not happen as sure as I know anything else. It's a fact. It did not occur. If you look at things as mathematically as you are, then you are going to end up being consumed by this thought of free will. You are going to look at every action and its reaction and the subsequent reactions these actions beget and conclude that nothing is within in your controle because everything has an antecedent and probability is going to drive certain reactions to be more prevalent than others, so do you do those things when you feel you want to or is this just probability driving you to a mathematically predictable outcome, and if that's the case... lithium.
     
  20. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Quantum mechanics tells us that that's not true.

    Not slaves to what?
     
  21. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Not much. The society we live in usually dictates our values, what we aspire to and the way we have to behave.
     
  22. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    But you still choose whether to do so or not.
     
  23. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Free will? Try not breathing. The need to get air is already restricting free will. It's impossible to hold your breath to the point of death. Then the rest follows. At first what we do is dictated by biological needs. Then biological programming. Then Social needs and programming. In the end there's actually very little room left for 'free will'. But being able to move around in a cage can feel like free will if you've never been in a bigger cage, and can see people in smaller ones.
     
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  24. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    You'd like to think so but you don't really.
     
  25. Pheonix
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    Pheonix A Singer of Space Operas and The Fourth Mod of RP Staff Contributor

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    I think that there is a difference between Free Will, and Freedom.

    Absolute freedom would make you a god. Free Will means that you have the ability to come to conclusions and decisions on your own, affect your own destiny, make things happen that wouldn't have otherwise.

    But how could anyone do any of those things without first having a base of knowledge to work off?

    Animals have their instinctual behaviors coded into their genes, and yet they still sometimes do things that no one could have predicted. Humans are the same, except that we have the ability to take in information, judge it's value, and apply it to situations. Yes, we're shaped by our experience, but that doesn't mean that the things we do are always what we would do. It's what we choose to do that defines us as individuals.

    Two people with similar backgrounds can still make different decisions, people with radically different backgrounds can come to identical conclusions.

    We make our own destinies. We may never be truly free, but within our limited realm of the physical world, we can affect our own course.
     

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