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Schopenhauer on freedom of the will.

 
 
Reply Sun 19 Sep, 2010 09:05 am
Man can do what he wants but he cannot want what he wants.

Prize Essay On The Freedom Of The Will (1839)

This famous quote is often adduced as an argument against free will (Not, it should be quickly noted, as an argument from authority against free will. I am not saying that free will is false because Schopenhauer says so).

The question is this: how (or why) does it follow from the premise (even supposing the premise is true) that we cannot want what we want, although we can often do what we want, that we do not sometimes have free will? (Which is, I think, Schopenhauer's argument)? Schopenhauer seems to be assuming here that if (or even, "because") it is not up to us what it is we want, but only up to us to do what we want, that we are compelled to want what we want, so that even if we are not compelled to do what we want, we still do not have free will. But how does that follow?

To make it a little clearer, S's argument seems to me this:

1. It is not up to us to want what we want.
Therefore, 2. we do not have free will even if it is up to us whether we do what we want.

Now, as it stands, this argument seems to me to be invalid. Even if the premise is true (which is questionable) the conclusion does not follow from the premise (or at least not without some further premise that needs to be supplied. But which one?).
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Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Sun 19 Sep, 2010 09:26 am
@kennethamy,
Oh Kenneth, I was expecting something else from you not this...

Whether we do what we want, is itself depending on the wanting, upon what we will do !
0 Replies
 
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Sun 19 Sep, 2010 10:07 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:

... Schopenhauer seems to be assuming here that if (or even, "because") it is not up to us what it is we want, but only up to us to do what we want...


Hey Ken,

I had to look this over a few times and think about it. Its been a while since Schopenhauer and I have been in each other's company, but yes; as you state above is precisely how I'd take it - barring any other qualifying details.

Whether or not this speaks to free will seems to be a non-issue (on the whole); however, if one believes their wants are - at least partially - formulated absent of ones' conscious will, then in that way yes, there's a connection. Its been my experience that what we want (whether or not consciously realized) is not a direct product of the will (prefrontal cortex). Wants are formulated in many areas of our brain based on many motivations. They surface only as they become urgent or relevant enough to our current circumstances. Or so I think...

So no, I wouldn't say we're necessarily compelled to want what we want, but that these are often a product of the subconscious/out of conscious sight could be contextualized to mean "compelled", in a sense.

kennethamy wrote:
To make it a little clearer, S's argument seems to me this:

1. It is not up to us to want what we want.
Therefore, 2. we do not have free will even if it is up to us whether we do what we want.

Now, as it stands, this argument seems to me to be invalid. Even if the premise is true (which is questionable) the conclusion does not follow from the premise (or at least not without some further premise that needs to be supplied. But which one?).

Assuming the premise is true (which I'd partially accept). No, the 2nd one does not follow.
  • It injects a presumption that the formulation of wants determine free will (which is only part of the picture).

  • For the conclusion to be valid, wants would need to be somehow 'compulsory' - that the brain must somehow act on them (which is also false). If anyone, anywhere or any time, decided against a want, this would at that moment be disproved. We all decide against <this> or <that> want - at least from time to time.

For clarification (and since I see this to be a source of much confusion regarding the question of free will), Free Will - to me - exists when I can halt my actions, reign in my desires and step back to decide based on whatever factors I consciously choose to give weight. If I, at any time, can do this, then Free Will - at least to some extent - does exist.

One can question themselves into a pickle - semantic suggestions widening the hole and muddying the waters of clarity. I choose not to do this. That I am often "pushed", "prodded" or motivated towards one choice or another - by whatever means - does not negate free will. Suggestion and desire may steer me one way, but the choice remains.

All of this depends on ones' definition of free will: Without equivocation "mandatory" or simply being "motivated towards". I've seen a great number of excellent thinkers define free will both ways.

Thanks
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Sun 19 Sep, 2010 10:27 am
@Khethil,
No, no , no...its not about deciding a want all alone...first of all there are several conflicting wants. What is about its the process in which one of them will prevail and surface to conscience.
To do, you must want to do...which you cannot control as wants start pre conscience...or as I said many times action can only come out of prevailing necessity. By far not free !

Even when you get to weight 2 different possibility´s that you become consciously aware of, given a strong internal drive on them both, the one prevailing was not only up to (self in tilted) non conditioned rational decision making, once the solution of this conflict is far beyond limited awareness that you might think to have...
0 Replies
 
kennethamy
 
  2  
Reply Sun 19 Sep, 2010 10:45 am
@Khethil,
Khethil wrote:

kennethamy wrote:

... Schopenhauer seems to be assuming here that if (or even, "because") it is not up to us what it is we want, but only up to us to do what we want...


Hey Ken,

I had to look this over a few times and think about it. Its been a while since Schopenhauer and I have been in each other's company, but yes; as you state above is precisely how I'd take it - barring any other qualifying details.

Whether or not this speaks to free will seems to be a non-issue (on the whole); however, if one believes their wants are - at least partially - formulated absent of ones' conscious will, then in that way yes, there's a connection. Its been my experience that what we want (whether or not consciously realized) is not a direct product of the will (prefrontal cortex). Wants are formulated in many areas of our brain based on many motivations. They surface only as they become urgent or relevant enough to our current circumstances. Or so I think...

So no, I wouldn't say we're necessarily compelled to want what we want, but that these are often a product of the subconscious/out of conscious sight could be contextualized to mean "compelled", in a sense.

kennethamy wrote:
To make it a little clearer, S's argument seems to me this:

1. It is not up to us to want what we want.
Therefore, 2. we do not have free will even if it is up to us whether we do what we want.

Now, as it stands, this argument seems to me to be invalid. Even if the premise is true (which is questionable) the conclusion does not follow from the premise (or at least not without some further premise that needs to be supplied. But which one?).

Assuming the premise is true (which I'd partially accept). No, the 2nd one does not follow.
  • It injects a presumption that the formulation of wants determine free will (which is only part of the picture).

  • For the conclusion to be valid, wants would need to be somehow 'compulsory' - that the brain must somehow act on them (which is also false). If anyone, anywhere or any time, decided against a want, this would at that moment be disproved. We all decide against <this> or <that> want - at least from time to time.

For clarification (and since I see this to be a source of much confusion regarding the question of free will), Free Will - to me - exists when I can halt my actions, reign in my desires and step back to decide based on whatever factors I consciously choose to give weight. If I, at any time, can do this, then Free Will - at least to some extent - does exist.

One can question themselves into a pickle - semantic suggestions widening the hole and muddying the waters of clarity. I choose not to do this. That I am often "pushed", "prodded" or motivated towards one choice or another - by whatever means - does not negate free will. Suggestion and desire may steer me one way, but the choice remains.

All of this depends on ones' definition of free will: Without equivocation "mandatory" or simply being "motivated towards". I've seen a great number of excellent thinkers define free will both ways.

Thanks


I am assuming that when someone asserts that he did something of his own free will he is denying that he was compelled to do what he did. And of course, I am also assuming that this assumption is true. But if, as Schopenhauer says, I can do what I want, then I am not compelled to do what I want, and I do have free will, at least so far as that goes. But then Schopenhauer seems to argue that although I do have free will in that I am not compelled to do what I want, he seems to take that back on the ground that I am compelled to want what I want. So, one issue is whether, even if he is right, and I am compelled to want what I want, whether he should take back that I am not compelled to do what I want. It seems to me that he should not take it back. That whether or not I can want what I want, it is still true that I can do what I want, and so have free will in that respect. Schopenhauer, though, seems to be suggesting (if not implying) that if I cannot want what I want, the kind of freedom I have to do what I want is somehow inadequate, and that if I am compelled to want what I want, then the fact that I am not compelled to do what I want, is an illusory kind of freedom. That seems to me to be wrong. But next, why does Schopenhauer think that I am compelled to want what I want? It seems to be that it is because he believes that the causes for my wanting what I want are not up to me so that I am compelled to want what I want. But is this argument correct? Does it really follow that because the causes of my wanting to want what I do want are not up to me, that I am compelled to want what I want? I don't see that is so. After all, to be compelled is to be either restrained so that I am unable to do what I want to do, or constrained, so that I am forced to do what I do not want to do, and it does not seem to me that need be true just because I am caused to want what I want. For there is no evidence that I need be, when caused to want what I want, either restrained or constrained. I may be perfectly willing to want what I want.
Fil Albuquerque
 
  0  
Reply Sun 19 Sep, 2010 11:01 am
@kennethamy,
In Psychology when you say "up to me " you are simply referring to your conscientious self and not to the whole of your mind...and that´simply not the place where decision was made but only the place where you become aware of it...

Free will deniers never said that you don´t do what you want but only that what you want it is not up to the emerging awareness in you...
0 Replies
 
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Sun 19 Sep, 2010 12:44 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:
... After all, to be compelled is to be either restrained so that I am unable to do what I want to do, or constrained, so that I am forced to do what I do not want to do, and it does not seem to me that need be true just because I am caused to want what I want. For there is no evidence that I need be, when caused to want what I want, either restrained or constrained.

I think we're in agreement on this. While all the aforementioned does play into the equation, I don't see sufficient restraint/constraint that would nullify any free will, based on his argument. Again, we need to be careful that we not get wrapped around our own axle.

One could go batshit over this: Do I want what I want because I want to want it or because the act of wanting is motivated by wanting to want what I want or....

Reductio ad absurdum
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Sun 19 Sep, 2010 12:49 pm
@Khethil,
You fail to prove anything at all...but that is just self evident.
Further, you fail to understand what "I" means...
Its not the wanting that is in question but to know why you want it in the first place...as also if this why is up to you as a conscientious being or if its up to your inner unconscious need directly dependent on your genetic heritage and surrounding conditions...
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Sun 19 Sep, 2010 01:34 pm
@Fil Albuquerque,
Fil Albuquerque wrote:

You fail to prove anything at all...but that is just self evident.
Further, you fail to understand what "I" means...

I'm not trying to prove anything. You might want to work on your reading skills.
Here you're guilty of arrogant presumption that remains unsupported in the conversation thus far. I understand you want someone to pay attention to you, but for this to have any worth to others, you must also read and show that you understand.

Fil Albuquerque wrote:
Its not the wanting that is in question but to know why you want it in the first place...

Yes, this "wanting what we want" is what we've been talking about. Welcome to four posts ago.

Good luck
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Sun 19 Sep, 2010 01:47 pm
@Khethil,
1 - I guess you insist in looking to the other side, but that alone does n´t diminish the fact that why you want it is what is relevant in the first place and not if you want to want the wanting as you suggested...2 different things.

2 - Why represents compelling motive on the unconscious and sub conscious level precisely where the "urge" is formed.

3 - I could n´t care less with the attention to A or B, but to the validity on what is proposed with a formal serious tone.
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Sun 19 Sep, 2010 02:07 pm
@Fil Albuquerque,
Fil Albuquerque wrote:
... why you want it is what is relevant in the first place and not if you want to want the wanting as you suggested...2 different things.

Yes, why we want what we want - and its implications on free will - Is what we've been talking about as suggested by the original post. This "whether or not we want the wanting" is but a correlate, and was illustrated it in that light. Hello?

Fil Albuquerque wrote:
2 - Why represents compelling motive on the unconscious and sub conscious level precisely where the "urge" is formed.

Yes... this is precisely what we're discussing. Are you there?

Fil Albuquerque wrote:
I could n´t care less with the attention to A or B, but to the validity on what is proposed with a formal serious tone.

It has been, and continues to be. That you've not seen we're talking about the same aspect remains a mystery; as its only been a few posts.
0 Replies
 
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Sun 19 Sep, 2010 02:15 pm
@Fil Albuquerque,
Fil Albuquerque wrote:
... why you want it is what is relevant in the first place...

Here you go, reposting my position on this aspect since it was buried deep in a 4 sentence paragraph:

Khethil wrote:
Its been my experience that what we want (whether or not consciously realized) is not a direct product of the will (prefrontal cortex). Wants are formulated in many areas of our brain based on many motivations.

The implications, from here, on what that might mean to the concept of free will could indeed take a turn towards the "There Is No"-side, depending on just how compulsory such desires are... and whether or not we're acting upon such non-will derived motivations in the first place.

Hope that helps
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Sun 19 Sep, 2010 02:44 pm
@Khethil,
...fair n´square...it did help ! Thank you.
0 Replies
 
chai2
 
  1  
Reply Sun 19 Sep, 2010 02:51 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:

Man can do what he wants but he cannot want what he wants.

The question is this: how (or why) does it follow from the premise (even supposing the premise is true) that we cannot want what we want,


I took this to mean that the thought of wanting something changes the wanted object, so it is no longer what was initially wanted.

When one does not express what they want, the wanted object is in its initial state.
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sun 19 Sep, 2010 03:01 pm
@chai2,
To quote from Einstein's "Credo" (part I):
Quote:
I do not believe in free will. Schopenhauer's words: 'Man can do what he wants, but he cannot will what he wills,' accompany me in all situations throughout my life and reconcile me with the actions of others, even if they are rather painful to me. This awareness of the lack of free will keeps me from taking myself and my fellow men too seriously as acting and deciding individuals, and from losing my temper.


Source: sound document (in German) from 1932
Here: Translated transcript
Arjuna
 
  1  
Reply Sun 19 Sep, 2010 05:30 pm
I don't think it's an argument, it's an observation. To gain what you want kills the will that achieved that gain. You don't want death.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sun 19 Sep, 2010 06:05 pm
@chai2,
chai2 wrote:

kennethamy wrote:

Man can do what he wants but he cannot want what he wants.

The question is this: how (or why) does it follow from the premise (even supposing the premise is true) that we cannot want what we want,


I took this to mean that the thought of wanting something changes the wanted object, so it is no longer what was initially wanted.

When one does not express what they want, the wanted object is in its initial state.


Why would you think it meant that? It certainly does not say that.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sun 19 Sep, 2010 06:09 pm
@Walter Hinteler,
Walter Hinteler wrote:

To quote from Einstein's "Credo" (part I):
Quote:
I do not believe in free will. Schopenhauer's words: 'Man can do what he wants, but he cannot will what he wills,' accompany me in all situations throughout my life and reconcile me with the actions of others, even if they are rather painful to me. This awareness of the lack of free will keeps me from taking myself and my fellow men too seriously as acting and deciding individuals, and from losing my temper.


Source: sound document (in German) from 1932
Here: Translated transcript


That quote just shows that as a philosopher Einstein was a great physicist. He simply swallows Schopenhauer's argument uncritically. And even worse, he accepts the conclusion not because it is justified, but because he thinks it is useful. Pretty bad.
0 Replies
 
chai2
 
  1  
Reply Sun 19 Sep, 2010 06:12 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:

chai2 wrote:

kennethamy wrote:

Man can do what he wants but he cannot want what he wants.

The question is this: how (or why) does it follow from the premise (even supposing the premise is true) that we cannot want what we want,


I took this to mean that the thought of wanting something changes the wanted object, so it is no longer what was initially wanted.

When one does not express what they want, the wanted object is in its initial state.


Why would you think it meant that? It certainly does not say that.


Well, in my interpretation, it certainly does.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sun 19 Sep, 2010 06:14 pm
@Arjuna,
Arjuna wrote:

I don't think it's an argument, it's an observation. To gain what you want kills the will that achieved that gain. You don't want death.


Well that's what you think. But why should we accept that observation? What Schopenhauer is clearly saying is that although we can often do as we want, that does not show we have free will since we cannot want as we want, and that, in my books is an argument against free will. Apparently even Einstein (whom you quote) took it as an argument too, although he did not examine it critically.
 

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