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).
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The problem with Rick’s conclusion is that in order to have free-will you cannot have determinism. Determinism is then limited to certain things, and your accuracy will continually get worse, the more accurate you attempt to be (as freewill will increasingly affect your predictions)
But the real argument against free-will / determinism is that :
Determinism requires we can predict everything, if given enough information. Free-will would then tell us that not all things can be predicted perfectly, because free-will will have an effect on the physics of certain occurences. Here is where the problem lies; how can free will affect physical objects? It would require energy in order to change an orbit, or a flight of an airplane, and we all know that we cannot just create energy from nothing.
This is solved by quantum probabilities – that is, we can account for disturbances in our predictions by accounting for the quantum world having probabilities of states, or actions. This would then limit consciousness to some kind of tie to probabilities in the quantum world.
There is one really good example I came up with (I believe, anyways) to illustrate how sketchy this subject is:
Imagine a super computer that is so good it can predict everything that happens on earth with great accuracy, it even takes into account its own’ affects (perhaps a paradox arises here, I’m not sure). The computer predicts your death. Do you still die from the same causes, the same way? I don’t think so, at least you’d have the choice not to.
@ijesuschrist, yeah the flouting argument (not the actual name), if you haven’t heard it before.
-B will choose a card, black or red, to show A
-A knows everything there is to know about B
-A can, therefore, predict what B will pick
-A makes a prediction, but B can always choose to do the opposite to flout A’s guess.
It’s something to that effect and you can try to search it if you like.
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.
@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
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.
@ijesuschrist, I don’t believe the seemingly randomness of quantum mechanics precludes the universe from being deterministic.
1) It depends on your definition/view of determinism. If you define determinism as the ability to predict what happens given perfect knowledge of the causes (as you seem to), then yes, determinism and the randomness of quantum theory are hard to justify (though not impossible, as I’ll address in point 2 lol). That said, if you view determinism simply as the lack of free will and the idea that when all is said and done, every effect is an uncontrollable result of previous causes, than determinism is 100% compatible with quantum mechanics. Under this definition, the ability to predict the outcome is not a prerequisite for determinism. The outcome itself is moot, the fact that the probabilities exist in exact measurable (theoretically of course) amounts is enough to say determinism exists.
In essence, randomness doesn’t make determinism impossible, it just makes it unpredictable. Some may say this isn’t determinism at all, but imo that is just semantics. The essence of the debate is control (free will) vs lack of control (determinism), and the existence of true randomness in quantum mechanics certainly doesn’t point one way or the other.
2) Even if you require the ability to predict any given outcome, I don’t think quantum mechanics necessarily precludes this either… Our current understanding of the quantum world is elementary at best, and what may seem like random probabilities now may simply just be too complex for us to understand. There is a possibility that quantum randomness isn’t actually random at all, which would change the entire argument lol.
Either way, I think the conversation is a very interesting one simply because of the number of ways the debate can be approached. For me personally, I am fascinated by the studies of the human brain that have shown evidence that neurons begin firing to do something before people become consciously aware they have made a choice. The implication being that “free will” isn’t a cause, it is an effect. Our sense of free will is simply the story we tell ourselves for something genetically (or biologically, or whatever) our body has already started doing. I think to myself “I decided to raise my hand because I know the answer to this question”, but before I ever had that thought to raise my hand, my brain had already begun firing and sending the message to raise my hand. So if it wasn’t my thought that caused my hand to raise (since it happened after the process started), what was it? And what in turn was my thought?
It’s sort of like the question, where do thoughts/ideas come from? What causes an idea to come to me, am I really the creator of these brilliant ideas, or am I merely the observer? Are we in control of our brains, or are we merely observing life while pretending to be in control?
@alljuicedup, As you have stated, you see randomness exists in the universe.
How can you then exclude free-will?
“seem like random probabilities now may simply just be too complex for us to understand.”
The thing with quantum mechanics is the situations are very, very simple. Electron is in area “A”. Based on classical physics, and all that we know, we can never tell if it will jump to area “B”, or if it will stay in area “A”. There is a 30% chance it will leave to area “B” but there is absolutely no way to tie this probability to any other physical characteristic of the particle. That we know of.
“Are we in control of our brains, or are we merely observing life while pretending to be in control?”
Yes that is the question.
And as I have given in an example before, say determinism holds true, even with the probabilities faced in quantum mechanics. Well that would mean that if a very large computer were to predict your death, you would have absolutely no say about it, for the computer took into account all of your neuron’s, all of the world’s events, and even it’s own existence in displaying this to you.
Would you still die the same way?
Of course not, unless you really wanted to.
Interesting. Death is certain. I imagine free will as self-configuring/programming our own thoughts, with manual management of our personality and being completely insane, and willing to be unpredictable. The point is, whatever you believe is true in philosophy, is going to have an opposite truth about it and they’ll both co-exist. Imagining what a subject is capable by learning its history, could lead to surprises and that’s why there are never-ending researches of cause and effect and maybe even explains the theory of evolution. Not making absolute sense and making sense of something nonsensical is a good explanation, although only logical in a world of paradox. – I am not quite sure what I said, but I have an idea.
Times there are a’ changin’! And not much.
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
@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
@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.
I don’t really disagree with anything you said. I agree that for free will to exist the universe would have to be random (I’ve never agreed with the people that say determinism and free will can coexist). The very essence of free will demands that something outside of the laws of this physical universe be acting upon the physical (call it a soul, whatever).
That said, I’m not sure what we’re debating, because as I originally stated in my first reply, randomness itself does not imply free will (just as saying something is a rectangle does not imply it is a square)… it simply means the conditions make free will 1 possible explanation. We appear to agree on this lol
You can still have a random universe with no free will (this would be your example #2, the probability scenario… which path something takes is based on probability, but ultimately random).
The difference of opinion again goes back to semantics… I would classify both scenario 1 and 2 and deterministic, while you see scenario 2 as something wholly different. Either way, the existence of true randomness on the quantum level does not point towards determinism or free will one way or the other (of if you’d prefer, between control and no control :) ).
But hell, nevermind free will… getting your head around that concept is relatively easy. If we agree that free will is the non physical exerting itself into the physical universe, the true essence of “random,” than what the hell is quantum randomness? What the heck is causing that? I guess that’s why even the smartest people in the world have trouble wrapping their heads around the quantum world!