Debate: Free Will V. Determinism
A topic anyone who mingles here will no doubt have experience with, I ask you to revisit this battleground to hash out your argument for free will, determinism, or the crossbreeds thereof (if you are going to go with one of the lesser known hybrids/independents, please define it for those who are not away of its stance).
You must be logged in to reply to this topic.
I think this is one of the most interesting subjects today because of the amount of uncertainty science gives us in respect to the relation of object-observer.
I think that the universe is essentialy a deterministic system, that is to say; Each event will (according to cause and effect) Determine the situation/environment of the next event, and in greater or lesser way the nature of the event.
But we, as beings who are capable of releasing energy to alter a current situation, we can determine the direction in wich the determinate system will unfold.
Imagine a huge ball, who is pushed from point A to point B, If there is nothing in his way it will arrive at B without any trouble, but if along this way something touches the ball only slightly on the side, it will miss point B and will set course for point C and then the proces can happen again.
So what I think is that there is definately an escaton built in to this universe, but how and when and through wich means is up to its sentient inhabitants.
and the fun thing with quantum physics is that now it seems that things cannot exist without an observer, so the possibility of the universe not existing in the ‘old way’ becomes slowly evident
well maybe they are programed to think there is more and yet there is not its just a computer code. or they may not existence. they only exist because you do, because they are in your programming. you see them as they are and see all that see because you were programed to do so. it goes back to the age old adage “i think therefore i am” you only exist because your are programmed to exist but that do not mean anything else does. it only does because its data is within your system. “its like if a tree falls in the forest does it make a sound” one would think yes, its only logical o sense nthat it would but if its not in your sight and you have no senses connected to it, then it really does not truly exist in your minds eye. But try telling tree it doesnt exist. so you see even if we know it its quite hard to grasp, because of our programing.
What I find to be a pretty solid case for determinism is precognition. It happens all the time to many people, deja-vu. It happens to me a lot and I can even recall the dream I had that was the situation/environment I found myself in very specifically. The weirdest one was when the dream was the night before my deja-vu experience, they don’t usually happen so close together in time.
@ijesuschrist, I can’t exclude free will based on quantum randomness, I was simply stating it is not an argument for free will… it is not an argument for or against either side, that was my only point, that it doesn’t disprove determinism.
As for your computer program example, you say that in a deterministic existence, if a large computer were to take into account every possible variable (including the computers own existence) and predict my death, and I was made aware of this prediction, that I then wouldn’t die the same way… why not? It seems like a leap of faith to say that, does it not? Especially considering the truth is that it’s a scenario so bizarre, you (or I, or people much smarter than us) couldn’t possibly say what would happen. To rule out life wouldn’t continue to play out exactly as the computer states is foolish though.
While on the “computer simulation” topic, here’s a far more mind bending twist… if a powerful enough computer was built that could perform the above said task, then it stands that reality as we know it is but a computer simulation. Consider, that inside our computer that is simulating the world, another computer would be build that is simulating the world. Inside that simulation, another computer would be built that is simulating the world, and so on and so forth an infinite amount of times. It holds then, that if there are an infinite number of simulations happening that are simulating our existence, what are the odds that our reality is the top level? If such a computer is built one day, it implies that it is an almost mathematical certainty that we are but another simulation of reality that is being run, and that the “reality” running our simulation is but a simulation themselves, and so on and so forth an infinitely long amount.
Here’s a short story explaining the concept… http://qntm.org/responsibility
And for the brave, here’s an overly complicated article written in Philosophical Quarterly in 2003 by an Oxford professor making the same argument (and then some)… http://www.simulation-argument.com/simulation.html
The one ultimate stopper for analysis of any sort is ‘INFINITY’. When something is infinite, thinking/analysis as a goal oriented activity suddenly loses all relevancy.
If I tell you, there is an extremely complex system, if you believe that you can understand it, then you proceed to study, think, ponder, explore, question etc.
But if I tell you that there is a system that is infinitely complex, where would you start?, what would you analyze?, what beliefs are you going to have? How far would you analyze? What is the purpose of your analysis?
Its starts to get more introspective/subjective after that. Does it matter if reality was objectively based on free will or determinism beyond my beliefs about it? Aren’t the rest of the factors just stories we are telling ourselves? Is the story we tell ourselves/perception what ultimately matters?
Another issue this question reminds me of is ‘final causation’. What is the final cause of things? It’s unknown. If you ask a child ‘why does a bird have wings?’ It will say ‘To fly’. If the child gets older and studies evolution, it may come up with a longer explanation about how birds evolved into having wings, hollow bones etc. But persist with the ‘why’ question and an unknown is reached. The complicated thread of story is so tightly tied, it seems so convincing. But if you go on excavating with the ‘why’ question a final cause is not found.
As someone mentioned in the thread, who or what is the thinker of thoughts? is a conundrum. The other one is ‘Is there any real doer of actions?’.
@misssunbeam, deja-vu is the coolest. I have it pretty frequently, so long as I am doing activities outside of the house and stuff. I usually don’t have them when I am shut in at home…has to be something more involved and less predictable, surprisingly enough
Either way it does not effect your life one iota. Perhaps it is like a train, the passangers can interact with whoever they want, whenever they want, but there are predetermined stations that it stops. People get on, people get off but the train terminates at the end of the line no matter what the passangers do, at the same place but the time only depends on any delays that happened to interfere with the schedule.
From a purely metaphysical perspective, if there is not total free will in one’s actions then one ceases to exist and the argument becomes entirely unimportant. This would be comparable to a robot who was programed to complete a specific task and nothing else. The robot doesn’t actually have an identity, it is simply a tool, a catalyst of sorts, by which other things are accomplished.
Who is to say some higher being such as god did not create everything and like an experiment it played out well. Who is to say he did not create the earth and life and he set it so that creatures would evolve. he could have set up certain parameters and with that the ball was sent rolling. So free will could exist in a world created by another if the experiment functions. The being may have set the ball rolling, or the earth spinning, but ultimately left it alone to observe and we have had free reign over this world only limited by the parameters set, but those parameters are just the functions of the earth and weather and so on. so just the basic of our own lifes that we except as science anyway.
Even if determinism is true, and our past does determine our future or we are “pre-programmed”, that doesn’t mean we lose our self control. Like a space probe.. we program it, but then it goes on to do it’s own thing, in a way, based on it’s environment. And even if every point on life’s path is determined by prior events and brain events, part of what makes these determined events happen is YOUR thoughts and actions.. Proving that all it is, is you making a decision (cause), and it’s outcome (effect). We’re free in deciding but not so free in what outcome this decision brings upon us. I dunno, our sense of freedom is pretty inescapable and it’s all we really need, if you wanna do something, you can do it! Nothings holding you back, not even “determinism”. Just gotta be smart and know that there are consequences to your actions.. think before ya do shit.
@staringatstars, sorry I didn’t mean to leave you hanging last night on this one.
Anyway, I’ll take it this way: we are programmed. That means there is a programmer. That means that the programmer has knowledge beyond our own such that it can tailor our perceptions and processes. They would, therefore, have to place within our heads the ability to think of a free will. If we were mechanical and self-programming, free will would not really be something we could have the ability to access. I believe the concept is too foreign when compared to the human mind, and the way of life and science. So foreign that it must have been in something else’s mind before our own. This could also be said for ‘God’ or ‘Other beings.’
So I haven’t read the whole thread, I’m just new here and want to talk about awesome things!
Here’s what I think; Free will is mostly an illusion, determinism is what is true, BUT we need to keep living AS THOUGH free will is a thing, because the IDEA that we can control our selves will lead to positive differences in behaviour, even if we don’t actually control those differences.
But there is a way in which admitting determinism can also help people, as articulated by Sam Harris; the same way that we do not feel rage, or prolonged bitterness or the need for vengeance if, say, our homes are destroyed by a hurricane, or if a loved one is killed by a lightning strike, so we should feel about crimes that are inflicted by other people. I think this change in perception; realising that people are ultimately as much in control of their actions as the weather is for its actions (that is to say, not at all), will lead to a lot less bitterness and hate in the world, and a lot more healthy psyches.
@staringatstars, no one is to say and I think this is around the thing that myself and another user were discussing towards the middle of the first page.
I believe I phrased it as our lives being a script that the free-will-possessing God had the option of overwriting when he saw fit, such that our lives would seem seamlessly determined until we were made aware of a change in the plan
@lytning91, isn’t it the most amazing feeling? Every time it happens I want to grab onto that moment and savour it. I like to know that no matter what I do, I will always do exactly that which I’m meant to do. So free will or no, I’m doing what I like and it’s always the right path.
@alljuicedup, Well, my definition of determinism would be that the future is pre-determined. And with probabilities at play, for everything we know as of now, determinism just doesn’t hold water. There is no conceivable way around Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.
This doesn’t prove free-will exists, but it allows for a place for it to manifest.
I think the most important thing here to realize is the definition of free-will:
There are three possibilities of an action (Correct me if I’m wrong):
Determined – i.e. 100% of the outcome will always be explained in such a way
Probability – i.e. It is determined to a set number of paths, but the path ‘choice’ is undetermined.
Complete randomness – no explanation needed.
Since any action / reaction has to fall into one of these 3 categories, for free will to exist it must be controlled by one of these situations. Bear with me I’ll try to make it more clear:
For free will to exist, we must assume that our actions are partially governed by physics, but there is the ability for the “soul / mind (what have you)” to interject and change the course of matter / energy in our reality.
Since this interjection, by definition, cannot be determined (because it is free-will) this means that, really, Free-will must be complete randomness, otherwise it would be based off something that could be determined.
So this argument really boils down to;
Does the “soul” or “mind” have some deterministic method of action/reaction
Is it completely random?
If you believe that free will is not randomness, I will argue that you have to believe it must be determined.
I feel like this is probably one of the most important concepts to this debate. What is the definition of free-will? People don’t often ask that question.
what you do now affects the past, not the other way around. Most things in the physical universe are determined, this is why we can predict flight paths for sending out space probes and whatnot. We know the universe will behave a certain way given current conditions, this allows us to make very accurate predictions (science)
however, i think consciousness and free will are immaterial things that are emergent properties of life/matter are are thus not subject to determinism of physical laws
If it’s pure determinism, from the moment of the big bang, the entire future of the universe was already set in course and predicted. How could it be any other way if this is purely the case? Chemicals bounce off one another and sometimes stick together. Leading to the formation of gases and stars, and then eventually to life forms. Chemicals keep reacting and that’s what eventually led to us. From this standpoints, our thoughts and opinions are made from purely the chemicals our brains are made of mixing and firing off neurons. For there to be free will, there would have to be something that exists outside of matter that is a part of us. I’m starting to think there is, so I think that free will exists, but it is not absolute.
Because it is difficult to predict things does not mean that determinism does not exist. If I think that simply because something happens it was meant to happen, regardless of how good or bad we think it is. This does not really affect your choices because tommorow you can decide to jump out of a plane and then jump out of a plane, this happens because it was meant to. If you decide to jump out of a plane but don’t then it wasn’t meant to happen.
The point is you can live your life any way you want, and it doesn’t always work out how you want, but in the end you have lived your life exactly how it was meant to be lived.