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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I’m not sure about determinism, but I’m fairly sure there is no such thing as free will. If there was total free will, we would at an instant be able to do what we want, travel wherever, IMMEDIATELY. Right now I may want to fly to the moon, but obviously I can’t. So even if there is free will, it is LIMITED to a certain extent. I feel safe in saying there is no such things as true free will…..well on this Earth/life right now. When you talk about dreams and metaphysical stuff etc… it gets a bit murky…
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!
Sorry just thought of this as well.. but isn’t my thought that something outside of matter exists that enables us to have free will just a pre-determined thought, already planned out by the reactions of chemicals? If you understand why it’s not, then you have free will. And the understanding is beyond intellectual description or thinking. So you can think you understand, but if all you have is an intellectual understanding, then you aren’t actually exercising free will at all.
@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?
for a second I thought Will V. Determinism was a person in jail or something…
I feel like some things in the universe pre-determined.. mainly because of math and physics.. but I also believe a conscious being can change things a bit. too late to get into it so ill get back to this tomorrow.
I don’t believe in determinism, some things don’t add up. I believe people are bound by their past decisions, but I believe they can “change the direction of the ship” so to speak. I also think gut feelings and spontaneous decision making are evidence of free will. I think the choice to trust your gut instinct is some sort of proof of free will. I think determinism is just easy to believe because it’s obvious people to don’t change easily.
Quantum mechanics instantly shows us that there is no determinism, there is no way to possibly predict anything, therefore the universe is not “determined” as far as we know, all things are just probabilities.
This gives way for the possibility of free-will, but for free will to manifest from probabilities is incredibly hard to comprehend. I can’t understand how the two could be related, but I have a feeling it is possible.
@mikeyw829, what if there is a determining force that carries an awareness and can choose to exercise that power in the case of circumstance?
What if we are scripting our lives and there exists an authority to overwrite and extend the script into tour futures if it chooses, but seamlessly and in such a way that we could never know for sure which measures of our life are meant.
@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.
From a purely logical standpoint, the world appears to be Deterministic. People act based on reason, which is developed by their experiences and interactions with their environment all the way as far back as birth, up until the present moment. Every aspect of a person’s personality and tendencies are determined by their circumstances and how they have affected them, including any genetic predispositions they might have been born with. The very structure of your own body is part of the circumstance in which your life is determined. Any not to be oversimplified, this is far from black-and-white. You can’t look at somebody’s life and state definitively how one particular aspect of circumstance caused them to act in one particular way. It’s beyond our understanding, at a chemical, physical, psychological level, why certain things might cause certain reactions. But as far as we can tell, it is a “mechanical” operation, completely Determined.
However, it is in these intricate details that, though beyond the reach of modern science, we pretend to understand anyway. That is why it is easy to cast away the idea of Free Will in favor of Determinism. But I believe this is the very setting where Free Will and Determinism become compatible. There is an undeniable, “spiritual,” “metaphysical,” element to the physical reality of our universe. Though mainstream science is extremely hesitant to credit any of the growing research, the studies are undeniable.
One such study that is particular relevant, I believe, is the observation that so-called “random number generating” computers, which are usually measured to be certifiably random in distribution of numbers, somehow cease to be perfectly random at the time of certain cataclysmic events, such as the collapse of the Twin Towers. This could possibly be due to the intense emotion felt during such events, or the outpouring of prayer and meditation, or simply the concentrated awareness and thoughts, but it shows a clear aspect of physical reality which modern science hasn’t even begun to understand yet.
These studies, along with many similarly perplexing studies in the field of Quantum Physics, lead me to believe that there is much more at play here than the mechanical, logical view of Determinism. Human will has “meta-physical” power in a manner that is impossible according to modern physics. Perhaps Free Will exists in a manner somewhat related to that fact, if that makes any sense. I don’t know.
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.
what if our brain is a computer that is playing a through a program. everything you see think and know is set up by lines of code the computer is reading. it tells you to have so and so thoughts and feel as if you have free will. free will just being a line of code within the program that is your life as you know it. so therefore you have free will in a sense that you believe you do but in all reality it is something that is already predetermined by the code that runs you life and you are unaware of it.
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.
@lytning91, isn’t that what I was saying? Sorry if I didn’t explain myself too clearly. As to the questions you’re asking.. that’s where it comes down to knowing (free will) vs. beliefs and thoughts (determination). How do you know that the questions you’re asking are true? If there is a presence outside of our awareness that is controlling everything, we wouldn’t even know it exists, we’d just believe it does. And beliefs are just that.. beliefs. They don’t really stem from anything. There is a difference knowing and beliefs. Only the individual can know for himself, but the knowing isn’t a thought or idea. So I can never prove to you that free will exists, and you could never prove it to me. Nor could I ever truly know if you BELIEVE in free will or if you KNOW free will, and you could never truly know for me either. We could probably have good ideas as to where the other person is coming from though. You can only know it yourself.