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What is free will?

 
 
Reply Wed 21 Dec, 2011 08:37 pm
I personally am uncertain of my belief in free will, for I feel as though I
am making choices, and logically, choices should be what give us free will.
On the other hand, aren't all our choices are determined by our DNA and
our memories/previous experiences, both of which are external
circumstances. You could say that although "we" are capable of making
choices, "we" are not capable of deciding who "we" are, and how "we" will
make those choices. Its at around this point in my train of thought that my
mind wanders off and I start thinking about food.

Anyway, as part of my quest for enlightenment, I decided to separately ask
two friends of mine, one of them strongly deterministic, and the other
quite the opposite, each what they thought free will was. Funnily enough,
neither of them could give me a good answer. The determinist friend wasn't
sure what it was, but he was quite positive on the fact that whatever it
was, it certainly didn't exist, and that it was merely an illusion. The
free will friend kept on coming back to the fact that I chose what to eat
for breakfast this morning, and somehow that meant that I had free will.

Perhaps they weren't the best people to discuss philosophy with... :p

Both of them agreed that there is more to free will than the ability to
make choices, but beyond that, I didn't get any real answers.

So now I ask you, the people of able 2 know, what is free will?

Please do not post whether they believe free will exists or not. Simply post what you belive free will to be.
I do not wish to start a Free Will v. Determinism flame war.
Thank You!
 
Lustig Andrei
 
  0  
Reply Wed 21 Dec, 2011 09:01 pm
@coolcubed,
This topic has already been done to death on a number of other threads.
0 Replies
 
Cyracuz
 
  1  
Reply Wed 21 Dec, 2011 09:03 pm
@coolcubed,
Choices may be what gives us free will.
But determinism is what gives us choices.
What is the ability to choose, if there are no choices?
0 Replies
 
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Wed 21 Dec, 2011 10:33 pm
@coolcubed,
O.K., free will is the illusion that there is a chooser, rather than a bunch of competing drives.
0 Replies
 
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Wed 21 Dec, 2011 10:33 pm
@coolcubed,
O.K., free will is the illusion that there is a chooser, rather than a bunch of competing drives.
0 Replies
 
Lustig Andrei
 
  1  
Reply Wed 21 Dec, 2011 10:54 pm
ditto strikes again Laughing
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  -1  
Reply Wed 21 Dec, 2011 11:59 pm
@coolcubed,
coolcubed wrote:
You could say that although "we" are capable of making
choices, "we" are not capable of deciding who "we" are, and how "we" will
make those choices.

That's pretty much what Schopenhauer said.

coolcubed wrote:
Both of them agreed that there is more to free will than the ability to
make choices, but beyond that, I didn't get any real answers.

No, that's what free will is -- the ability to make undetermined choices. There's really nothing more to it.
coolcubed
 
  1  
Reply Thu 22 Dec, 2011 04:16 pm
@joefromchicago,
joefromchicago wrote:

coolcubed wrote:
You could say that although "we" are capable of making
choices, "we" are not capable of deciding who "we" are, and how "we" will
make those choices.

That's pretty much what Schopenhauer said.

coolcubed wrote:
Both of them agreed that there is more to free will than the ability to
make choices, but beyond that, I didn't get any real answers.

No, that's what free will is -- the ability to make undetermined choices. There's really nothing more to it.

Well that's just silly:
There is more to free will than making choices, we make choices every day, and yet there are still people who don't believe in free will. Its not that those people are idiots, its that they also bring into question the identity of the chooser.
And if by undetermined choices you mean choices that are not influenced or determined by external factors, nobody can deny the fact that all our choices are influenced by external factors in some form or another. (Example: You chose to make your post on this discussion because you noticed my original post.)

(And by the way, I am aware that that was Schopenhauer's philosophy, but that doesn't make it false.)
Lustig Andrei
 
  1  
Reply Thu 22 Dec, 2011 05:14 pm
@coolcubed,
I think you missed a key word in Joe's post -- "undetermined." Sure, we all make choices on a daily basis. Point is, you can't call it free will if the choices which you think you're making on your own are actually pre-determined by such factors as DNA, cultural values, upbringing, current social situation etc. That sort of choice-making is merely the illusion of free will.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Thu 22 Dec, 2011 06:19 pm
@coolcubed,
coolcubed wrote:
Well that's just silly:

You say that you don't know what free will is, but you're qualified to say what free will isn't? Well, that's just silly.

coolcubed wrote:
There is more to free will than making choices, we make choices every day, and yet there are still people who don't believe in free will. Its not that those people are idiots, its that they also bring into question the identity of the chooser.

How is the identity of the chooser brought into question?

coolcubed wrote:
And if by undetermined choices you mean choices that are not influenced or determined by external factors...

No, I don't mean that at all. That's a strawman definition of "undetermined."

coolcubed wrote:
(And by the way, I am aware that that was Schopenhauer's philosophy, but that doesn't make it false.)

I never said it did.
coolcubed
 
  1  
Reply Fri 23 Dec, 2011 02:49 pm
@joefromchicago,
Firstly, I will apologize for my misinterpretation of your use of the phrase "Undetermined choices". I disregarded the word "undetermined" partly because I felt your use of it was simply scraping the tip of the iceberg of the free will debate (like saying "The right thing to do is the thing that creates the best outcome. That's all there is to it.) and partly out of my own somewhat childish desire to "win" the discussion.
Secondly, I will apologize for my misinterpretation of your use of "That's pretty much what Schopenhauer said". It appeared as if you were using that fact to discount my statement about determinism.
Finally, to answer your question about how the identity of the chooser is called into question:
People who believe in free will believe that factors such as your previous experiences and other external circumstances, but they feel that since it is our conscious self that ultimately makes the decision, we our the ones who control our own fate. As I brought up in my original post, determinists counter this by saying that we don't control our DNA and therefore don't control ourselves and our fate. From this springs forth the complicated question of what our conscious self really is, and if it matters whether or not we determine who we ourselves are.
joefromchicago
 
  0  
Reply Fri 23 Dec, 2011 06:40 pm
@coolcubed,
coolcubed wrote:

Firstly, I will apologize for my misinterpretation of your use of the phrase "Undetermined choices". I disregarded the word "undetermined" partly because I felt your use of it was simply scraping the tip of the iceberg of the free will debate (like saying "The right thing to do is the thing that creates the best outcome. That's all there is to it.) and partly out of my own somewhat childish desire to "win" the discussion.

It may be scraping the tip of the iceberg, but really I don't think there's much of an iceberg there to begin with. Free will, considered on its own, is pretty sterile territory, and I have very little interest in the subject. On the other hand, I have a deep interest in the area of responsibility for one's acts. As I see it, there's really no reason to talk about free will if one doesn't also talk about responsibility.

coolcubed wrote:
Secondly, I will apologize for my misinterpretation of your use of "That's pretty much what Schopenhauer said". It appeared as if you were using that fact to discount my statement about determinism.

I have a pretty healthy respect for Schopenhauer. I'm not sure if he's right about free will, but then I'm not sure he's wrong either.

coolcubed wrote:
Finally, to answer your question about how the identity of the chooser is called into question:
People who believe in free will believe that factors such as your previous experiences and other external circumstances, but they feel that since it is our conscious self that ultimately makes the decision, we our the ones who control our own fate. As I brought up in my original post, determinists counter this by saying that we don't control our DNA and therefore don't control ourselves and our fate. From this springs forth the complicated question of what our conscious self really is, and if it matters whether or not we determine who we ourselves are.

No one denies that people's actions are multi-determined by a variety of factors -- environment, education, genes, etc. If "determinism" means only that, though, then it doesn't mean anything worthwhile. It's just a mundane truism. As I understand it, "determinism" means that one is not just inclined to make a choice, but that one is incapable of making an alternative choice. It means, in short, that whatever happens must happen.
devink1008
 
  -1  
Reply Fri 23 Dec, 2011 11:15 pm
@coolcubed,
free will is reality if we were hungry we still have the choice/freedom to go eat or not eat e.x Ghandi. although for some free will is an illusion it depends on whether a persons mind is strong enough to experience free will. if a weak minded person was to try to fast he would most likely not be able to unless he truly believed in a cause for it and still then possibly not. But for the people that live in their mind and not in reality (like me) it is possible to block the temptation. although it is always a choice, the reality we live in is the free will of stronger humans controlling the weak minded (the worker ants). Reality is shaped by the will of the strong
0 Replies
 
coolcubed
 
  1  
Reply Tue 27 Dec, 2011 03:53 pm
@joefromchicago,
joefromchicago wrote:


I may be scraping the tip of the iceberg, but really I don't think there's much of an iceberg there to begin with.

No one denies that people's actions are multi-determined by a variety of factors -- environment, education, genes, etc. If "determinism" means only that, though, then it doesn't mean anything worthwhile. It's just a mundane truism. As I understand it, "determinism" means that one is not just inclined to make a choice, but that one is incapable of making an alternative choice. It means, in short, that whatever happens must happen.

Answer me this, joefromchicago: If, as you say, determinism is simply a "mundane truism", then why is over 30% of the world christian? After all, determinism is not truly compatible with Christianity: If god (being an all knowing deity) knows that we are going to sin because of the situation he puts us in, why does he do so?
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 27 Dec, 2011 05:09 pm
@coolcubed,
coolcubed wrote:
Answer me this, joefromchicago: If, as you say, determinism is simply a "mundane truism", then why is over 30% of the world christian?

I didn't say determinism is a mundane truism, I said it was a mundane truism if all it means is that actions have multiple determinants.

coolcubed wrote:
After all, determinism is not truly compatible with Christianity:

John Calvin might disagree.

coolcubed wrote:
If god (being an all knowing deity) knows that we are going to sin because of the situation he puts us in, why does he do so?

If god created rabbits, why didn't she know that rabbits aren't ruminants? It is, as they say, a mystery.
Lustig Andrei
 
  1  
Reply Tue 27 Dec, 2011 06:07 pm
Applying human logic to the actions of an entity which some call 'god' is about the most useless exercise in futility I can think of.
coolcubed
 
  1  
Reply Wed 28 Dec, 2011 02:49 pm
@joefromchicago,
Dear joefromchicago,
I'm curious, in the past, you have called my definition of determinism (that all the factors influencing our choices are external, and we therefore have no free will) a "mundane truism". So: how would you define determinism?

To answer your previous post:

joefromchicago wrote:

John Calvin might disagree.

Haha! I think we can both agree that Calvin was an idiot. His predestination theory only shows how messed up conclusions that are drawn by mixing religion with determinism can be.
joefromchicago wrote:

If god created rabbits, why didn't she know that rabbits aren't ruminants? It is, as they say, a mystery.

A very good question, yet another flaw in a book filled with logical fallacies and errors. However, it does not respond to my initial question: If determinism is so obvious, why are so many people against it?
coolcubed
 
  1  
Reply Wed 28 Dec, 2011 03:06 pm
@Lustig Andrei,
Lustig Andrei wrote:

Applying human logic to the actions of an entity which some call 'god' is about the most useless exercise in futility I can think of.

You use the term:"human logic" as if there is some greater form of logic that god uses that's just too complicated for us humans to understand. The truth is, that by definition, logic of any kind can be used to explain the actions of any living being in the universe. I don't see how applying logic to examine god's "actions" is a futile exercise at all.
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Wed 28 Dec, 2011 03:16 pm
@coolcubed,
coolcubed wrote:

Dear joefromchicago,
I'm curious, in the past, you have called my definition of determinism (that all the factors influencing our choices are external, and we therefore have no free will) a "mundane truism". So: how would you define determinism?

I already posted what I understand to be "determinism."

Earlier in this thread, joefromchicago wrote:
As I understand it, "determinism" means that one is not just inclined to make a choice, but that one is incapable of making an alternative choice. It means, in short, that whatever happens must happen.


coolcubed wrote:
Haha! I think we can both agree that Calvin was an idiot. His predestination theory only shows how messed up conclusions that are drawn by mixing religion with determinism can be.

You asserted that Christianity was incompatible with determinism, not that idiocy was incompatible with determinism. So it doesn't really matter whether or not Calvin was an idiot so long as he was a Christian.

coolcubed wrote:
A very good question, yet another flaw in a book filled with logical fallacies and errors. However, it does not respond to my initial question: If determinism is so obvious, why are so many people against it?

Is determinism obvious? I wasn't aware of that.
0 Replies
 
Lustig Andrei
 
  1  
Reply Wed 28 Dec, 2011 03:28 pm
@coolcubed,
By using the term "human logic" I meant to indicate that the use of any human faculties to somehow investigate or understand that which I believe to be beyond human understanding is futile. Applying logic to examine god's "actions" is futile because it presupposes that such actions are comprehensible to the human mind. What makes you think that they are (if, in fact, they even exist)? Hubrys? I don't presume to be able to understand something which -- again, if it even exists -- is, by definition, beyond human understanding.
0 Replies
 
 

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