Do We Have The Freedom Of Choice?

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    • #17204
      Ahsmeah
      Participant

      Since the body is made up of living and dead cells, including thoughts, would that make the "human being" technically predecided, and we would all be masses of cells interacting with the world in the shape of a human? I don’t know if anyone’s asked this before, though it may be likely. I’ve given this a great deal of thought, and it seems to me that if we understood the cells in everything for more than 10 seconds, then we’d know what’s going to happen forever? Sort of like telling the future. I’d like to know if this would be possible, and what your opinions are on this?


      No sources, mostly just a fact collector.
      -14 year old kid

    • #113493
      biohazard
      Participant

      As far as I can tell, there is nothing that suggests we have a free will. Our neurons react to stimuli from outside and inside our bodies and react according to them, not asking our opinions. However, in a way the answer to this question is not important, since we are so immersed to the experience of free will that we might as well think we have it and keep going. You have seen the movie the Matrix? Great, you should get my point!

      Brain imaging analyses have repeatedly shown that when a human makes a decision (e.g. they have to choose to press a red or blue button), the computer analyzing the images can tell which decision the person is going to make long before the person themselves is aware that they have made a decision. So the feeling of a free-willed decision comes after the brain has already decided. Naturally, due to the enormous complexity of the brain, these predictions apply mostly to straightforward decisions in simple experimental conditions, but there is no reason to doubt that the same decision-making mechanisms in the brain work in other scenarios as well. A computer might not be able to tell what I am going to write next: querterly gnorry blort!!? but those letters were probably destined to be typed who knows how long ago. They were simply a response of my neurons to the electrophysical stimulus of my eyes seeing the text you wrote.

      This being said, I think we would need some Nobel prize-winning quantum physicist to tell us whether anything in the world is truly random.

      In theory, if we were able to calculate the movement of each electron and photon and quark in the universe we could not only predict the future but also deduct what happened in the past. In reality, though, there cannot be anything like that due to the overwhelming barriers of practical physics that prevent us from making such observations and calculations.

      This is an interesting topic nonetheless. I am certain that there are many, many people who strongly disagree with me and loathe the idea of not having a free will, since it is regarded as one of the defining aspects of being a human.

      For those people, I would ask the following: If you are in a room that has two one-way exits and you leave the room via one of them, can you ever be sure that you could have also taken the other exit? And if so, is there any way for you or anyone to prove that you genuinely had the chance to take the other exit as well? My personal guess is that you were always going to take that one exit you did πŸ™‚

    • #113506
      Ahsmeah
      Participant
      quote biohazard:

      As far as I can tell, there is nothing that suggests we have a free will. Our neurons react to stimuli from outside and inside our bodies and react according to them, not asking our opinions. However, in a way the answer to this question is not important, since we are so immersed to the experience of free will that we might as well think we have it and keep going. You have seen the movie the Matrix? Great, you should get my point!

      Brain imaging analyses have repeatedly shown that when a human makes a decision (e.g. they have to choose to press a red or blue button), the computer analyzing the images can tell which decision the person is going to make long before the person themselves is aware that they have made a decision. So the feeling of a free-willed decision comes after the brain has already decided. Naturally, due to the enormous complexity of the brain, these predictions apply mostly to straightforward decisions in simple experimental conditions, but there is no reason to doubt that the same decision-making mechanisms in the brain work in other scenarios as well. A computer might not be able to tell what I am going to write next: querterly gnorry blort!!? but those letters were probably destined to be typed who knows how long ago. They were simply a response of my neurons to the electrophysical stimulus of my eyes seeing the text you wrote.

      This being said, I think we would need some Nobel prize-winning quantum physicist to tell us whether anything in the world is truly random.

      In theory, if we were able to calculate the movement of each electron and photon and quark in the universe we could not only predict the future but also deduct what happened in the past. In reality, though, there cannot be anything like that due to the overwhelming barriers of practical physics that prevent us from making such observations and calculations.

      This is an interesting topic nonetheless. I am certain that there are many, many people who strongly disagree with me and loathe the idea of not having a free will, since it is regarded as one of the defining aspects of being a human.

      For those people, I would ask the following: If you are in a room that has two one-way exits and you leave the room via one of them, can you ever be sure that you could have also taken the other exit? And if so, is there any way for you or anyone to prove that you genuinely had the chance to take the other exit as well? My personal guess is that you were always going to take that one exit you did πŸ™‚

      I read a book a year or two back; it had sort of the same ideas. Pendragon~ In one of the worlds, there was a supercomputer that could tell what is about to happen, and what has happened- since the beginning of time. I thought of that when I read your fourth wall of text.. That means if we could find a way to tell what every particle(of any size) is doing, we could tell the future, the past, and anything in between- ahead of time? Wow. That’s a bit hard to swallow. I wish I hadn’t known this, because now I’m feeling very ambitious. Lol Then again- if the universe is truly infinite, then there would be no way to do this. Maybe we could learn from a certain amount of space, but then eventually we would have to make the computer count more "stuff", more of the universe.

      I don’t think too many people would disagree with you if they understood the topic; I barely understand what I’m saying and I agree with you. I guess that means that we need to redefine "free will"- maybe "The ability to make decisions without major amounts of outside conflict".

    • #113519
      JackBean
      Participant

      What about the Heisenberg’s uncertainty princip?

    • #113523
      biohazard
      Participant
      quote JackBean:

      What about the Heisenberg’s uncertainty princip?

      Yeah, that is why I said we’d need a quantum mechanist. And that, along with the so-called "observer effect", is also what I meant by us not being able to measure these events precisely enough. However, even if quantum events seem random to us can we really tell that they are random? And even if they were, does it give us free will?

    • #113540
      JackBean
      Participant

      that was answer rather to Ahsmeah

    • #113542
      Ahsmeah
      Participant

      I’m going to look it up this weekend; at the moment I’m occupied by writing a love song and doing homework. Hahaha

    • #113699
      MarkHolland
      Participant

      Firstly, what do we think ‘freedom of choice’ is?

      A lot of people consider that because ‘lower’ animals are not aware of themselves as individuals that they act only from an ‘instinctual’ drive that makes them helplessly what they are… WE as humans on the other hand, are above and somehow removed enough from nature’s influence to rule our responses. We remember past events, project future consequences, and have the command of our own thoughts and the actions upon which we ‘decide’ to undertake.

      But ask yourself this: Do you decide what you like the taste of? Do you really choose what attracts and repels you?

    • #113706
      ughaibu
      Participant
      quote biohazard:

      As far as I can tell, there is nothing that suggests we have a free will.

      There’s the fact that we can’t function without assuming that we have free will, that we constantly demonstrate freely willed actions and that free will deniers talk about "the illusion of free will". It really isn’t plausible to pretend that the evidence isn’t entirely for the existence of free will.

      quote biohazard:

      Brain imaging analyses have repeatedly shown that when a human makes a decision (e.g. they have to choose to press a red or blue button), the computer analyzing the images can tell which decision the person is going to make long before the person themselves is aware that they have made a decision.

      Incorrect. The best match achieved is around 63%, and all that it suggests is that some subjects have been leaning towards a particular choice before deciding.

      quote biohazard:

      This being said, I think we would need some Nobel prize-winning quantum physicist to tell us whether anything in the world is truly random.

      It’s not clear why you’ve mentioned this, but there was a "Nobel prize-winning quantum physicist" named Wolfgang Pauli who held that determinism must be rejected by the scientist because it entails that the scientist does not have the freedom to choose either of a pair of mutually exclusive experimental settings, and this is required for the conduct of controlled experiments. In short, science requires the assumption of free will, and as science uses classical logic, science cannot consistently challenge free will.

      quote biohazard:

      For those people, I would ask the following: If you are in a room that has two one-way exits and you leave the room via one of them, can you ever be sure that you could have also taken the other exit? And if so, is there any way for you or anyone to prove that you genuinely had the chance to take the other exit as well?

      Let’s assume that the world is determined and thus that which exit I will take is a fact about the world long before I take it. Using a Schrodinger’s cat type affair, we can set things so that there is a 50% chance of observing decay, but there is no way of knowing whether or not we will observe it. If nobody tells me the result of the "cat" the probability that decay will coincide with me leaving by a particular door is 50%. But if I am told the result, then I can arbitrarily assign either exit to a decay result and the other to a non-decay result, and I can leave by the door indicated, every time. In a determined world, this is just a coincidence, and as I can act as stated for arbitrarily long sequences of consecutive tests, it’s a vanishingly improbable coincidence, either that or that the world is determined and we don’t have free will is vanishingly improbable. And again, as acting in accord with the result is equivalent to making an observation of the result, and as science is irreducibly dependent on observation, the scientist cannot rationally deny free will or espouse determinism.

    • #113707
      biohazard
      Participant
      quote ughaibu:

      quote biohazard:

      As far as I can tell, there is nothing that suggests we have a free will.

      There’s the fact that we can’t function without assuming that we have free will, that we constantly demonstrate freely willed actions and that free will deniers talk about “the illusion of free will”. It really isn’t plausible to pretend that the evidence isn’t entirely for the existence of free will.

      quote biohazard:

      Brain imaging analyses have repeatedly shown that when a human makes a decision (e.g. they have to choose to press a red or blue button), the computer analyzing the images can tell which decision the person is going to make long before the person themselves is aware that they have made a decision.

      Incorrect. The best match achieved is around 63%, and all that it suggests is that some subjects have been leaning towards a particular choice before deciding.

      quote biohazard:

      This being said, I think we would need some Nobel prize-winning quantum physicist to tell us whether anything in the world is truly random.

      It’s not clear why you’ve mentioned this, but there was a “Nobel prize-winning quantum physicist” named Wolfgang Pauli who held that determinism must be rejected by the scientist because it entails that the scientist does not have the freedom to choose either of a pair of mutually exclusive experimental settings, and this is required for the conduct of controlled experiments. In short, science requires the assumption of free will, and as science uses classical logic, science cannot consistently challenge free will.

      quote biohazard:

      For those people, I would ask the following: If you are in a room that has two one-way exits and you leave the room via one of them, can you ever be sure that you could have also taken the other exit? And if so, is there any way for you or anyone to prove that you genuinely had the chance to take the other exit as well?

      Let’s assume that the world is determined and thus that which exit I will take is a fact about the world long before I take it. Using a Schrodinger’s cat type affair, we can set things so that there is a 50% chance of observing decay, but there is no way of knowing whether or not we will observe it. If nobody tells me the result of the “cat” the probability that decay will coincide with me leaving by a particular door is 50%. But if I am told the result, then I can arbitrarily assign either exit to a decay result and the other to a non-decay result, and I can leave by the door indicated, every time. In a determined world, this is just a coincidence, and as I can act as stated for arbitrarily long sequences of consecutive tests, it’s a vanishingly improbable coincidence, either that or that the world is determined and we don’t have free will is vanishingly improbable. And again, as acting in accord with the result is equivalent to making an observation of the result, and as science is irreducibly dependent on observation, the scientist cannot rationally deny free will or espouse determinism.

      1. I simply meant that there is nothing in our actions that needs "free will" to explain it. It of course does not mean that there couldn’t be free will, it just means we’d do perfectly well also without it. I do not have means to prove either option as correct or incorrect. That being said, I find the claim that "we can’t function without assuming that we have free will" paradoxal – we might assume that we have a free will only because our deterministic neurons make us assume so.

      2. 63% is not at all that bad, taking into account the very crude instruments that are used to measure the brain activity (crude, as in they are light years away from the elegant mechanisms of the brain and neurons themselves). With enough samples we can statistically say that we can predict people’s thoughts within a certain margin of error. I think I did not say that people’s thoughts can be anticipated with 100% certainty, although I was under the impression that in very simple settings (choose Button A or Button B) the rate of success is very high.

      3. I have mentioned this because I do not have the required knowledge about quantum level events to say if there is anything random in this world and I thought maybe some expert on this field might know better. As far as I know, all events on the atomic scale and above that are determined by other atomic level interactions and thus "deterministic" – i.e. in theory, with fine enough instruments, we could always tell what is going to happen next. But I have understood that there is some degree of unexplained randomness in the quantum level, though this is mostly beyond my scope of expertise. But if there is free will, this element of randomness is perhaps the only basis for free will that I can think of.

      However, I do not understand this Pauli’s argument: the fact that determinism/free will is "beyond" the scientific method (much like gods and religions – except that, unlike with religions, there is rational reasoning behind both sides of the argument) does not make it true or false. I assume Pauli means that we must act as if we had free will, because that is the only way we can conduct science according to the scientific method. And why not. I, for sure, want to think I have free will and act accordingly. Unfortunately my or Pauli’s or anyone’s personal opinions and likes and dislikes are irrelevant, because it is still entirely possible that we have no free will and that these opinions and views are just deterministic outcomes of the flow of electrons in our brains.

      4. Now, I may have not fully understood your example, as to me it still seems that you take the one exit you take based on the stimulus obtained from your environment and the ensuing cascade of chemical and physical signals makes you to walk through the door and that you never really had a chance to choose otherwise.

      I appreciate it that you chose such a scientific approach to this matter that is, in the end, maybe more philosophical than scientific – since, as you implied, it does not seem to be possible to scientifically prove or disprove either of the available options.

      And just to clarify things: I do not see myself as a free will-denialist. In all its simpleness, I just have not found any "need" for free will in our world: there is no free will in rocks, no free will in the waves of the sea, no free will in trees or stars or rays of the sun or bacteria crawling in the dirt. And if you think about it, you and I are made of these same elements, atoms and electrons and quarks and whatnots, and bound by the very same laws of the universe. I do not understand how anything there could release us from the causality of an atom bumping into another, and create something like free will for only us (and perhaps other animals) to utilize. To me, the only thing that could grant us that kind of special privilege is a god of some kind, and gods, to me, look even less likely than free will! πŸ™‚

    • #113708
      biohazard
      Participant

      Well, ran out of time to edit my previous post, but I’ll add this small bit:

      Think of a neuron: it is a cell, and I don’t think anyone can claim that a cell has a free will. To the contrary, it is utterly on the mercy of the signals from its environment, its actions to each stimulus can be predicted and in all ways it works like a tiny factory, albeit a biological one. The neuron is just like any cell in this regard, it functions solely based on its interaction with its environment. It fires an action potential when a correct signal is received from the outside – be it another neuron or a scientist’s electrode or from the inside if the trigger is induced by its own genetic products. But in both cases, the reason for the neural impulse is purely electrochemical or physical.

      Now take a handful of neurons and you have a basic level nervous system – something similar that an earthworm has. Does it have free will? And if so, when the free will emerged? After joining two neurons? Or a thousand? No – all the neurons work under the same mechanisms as the one neuron did that we originally examined.

      Take billions of neurons and weave them into a fascinating, extraordinarily complex organ such as the human brain. Surely, it is now so delicate and magnificent that we cannot even fully comprehend its awesomeness – but consists of these very same neurons that fire their signals across the axons based on the same principles that each an every neuron works. There is no free will involved, at least not in the base level of their operations. So when does the free will enter the play? When we have a million neurons? A billion? Do some, more simple organisms, have "less free will" or "half-free will"? If a physician inserts an electrode and stimulates your brain, what happens to your free will when you laugh or cry or smile based on the whim of the doctor?

      Just some of the myriad of questions that you must answer to justify the existence of free will – but that you don’t have to even ask if you take a deterministic approach to the dilemma. Perhaps we can use Occam’s razor here: the solution where least questions has to be asked tends to be the correct one.

    • #113716
      ughaibu
      Participant
      quote biohazard:

      I assume Pauli means that we must act as if we had free will, because that is the only way we can conduct science according to the scientific method. . . . it is still entirely possible that we have no free will. .

      Quite, as it’s entirely possible that the world was created last Thursday, you’re a brain in a vat or any of the other things which one has no good reason to believe. We observe freely willed actions, they are an essential part of the conduct of science. So, denial of free will is contra-science and irreducibly metaphysical.

      quote biohazard:

      Now, I may have not fully understood your example, as to me it still seems that you take the one exit you take based on the stimulus obtained from your environment. . .

      Determinism is a global thesis; a world is determined if the following three conditions obtain:
      1) at all times the world has a definite state, which can, in principle, be fully described
      2) there are laws of nature which are the same in all times and places of the world
      3) given the state of the world at any time, the state of the world at all other times is exactly and globally entailed by the given state in conjunction with the laws of nature.
      That an agent bases their behaviour on environmental stimuli is tangential to this.

      quote biohazard:

      I just have not found any “need” for free will in our world

      Sure, we don’t need to do science, but I certainly prefer a world in which we do. Then again, all healthy human adults unavoidably assume and act on the assumption that they have free will. They can’t function otherwise. So, the need is absolute, I really don’t understand how you could have missed it.

      quote biohazard:

      there is no free will in rocks, no free will in the waves of the sea, no free will in trees or stars or rays of the sun or bacteria crawling in the dirt. And if you think about it, you and I are made of these same elements, atoms and electrons and quarks and whatnots, and bound by the very same laws of the universe. I do not understand how anything there could release us from the causality of an atom bumping into another, and create something like free will for only us (and perhaps other animals) to utilize.

      Consider a range of different physical phenomena, stuff you’d characterise as "the causality of an atom bumping into another". For example, smoke signals, sound waves, marks on paper, pixels on a computer screen, these are widely differing phenomena in different materials and brought about by different processes. But they are all ways of transmitting information, for example chess moves. As it goes, in a game of chess there is often only one legal move, so if we know the rules of chess, we can predict the behaviour of the sender and the smoke, or whatever other medium is used. But we can’t make that prediction using any law of science, notably any law concerned with atoms. So, either the rules of chess are "laws of the universe" or it is observably the case that some behaviour of some animals is not "bound by the very same laws of the universe" as atoms are. As the rules of chess are arbitrary, I think the conclusion is clear, and why not? After all, the behaviour of animals isn’t what is studied by physicists, so there is no reason to suppose that the theories of physicists are important for questions of animal behaviour.

      quote biohazard:

      To me, the only thing that could grant us that kind of special privilege is a god of some kind

      I’ve heard similar claims many times but nobody has ever offered an argument that supports it. How would a god and only a god, allow for free will?

      quote biohazard:

      Just some of the myriad of questions that you must answer to justify the existence of free will. . .

      No. I don’t have to answer any of those questions, because freely willed actions exist by observation. There are plenty of unexplained phenomena that nobody would dream of denying, naturally so, because phenomena must exist in order to be explained. Things don’t miraculously begin to exist when they are explained.

      quote biohazard:

      Perhaps we can use Occam’s razor here: the solution where least questions has to be asked tends to be the correct one.

      Ockham’s razor is inapplicable, because free will isn’t a hypothetical entity being unnecessarily mooted as part of an explanation. On the contrary, the problem of free will, for philosophers, has been how to explain it.

    • #113717
      JackBean
      Participant

      @biohazard: Let’s forget about the free will for a sec and let’s talk about consciousness.
      I guess one neuron is not aware of itself, is it? Now, let’s take bunch of neurons, will they have consciousness? If so, when did they get it? After we merged two neurons? Or thousand? Does the brain by itself have consciousness?

    • #113719
      biohazard
      Participant

      @ughaibu: I like your reasoning and you make a lot of sense to me. Even though I cannot fully escape the feeling of determinism when trying to observe the nature from a rock to a spider and to a human being, I get your point. And yes, the world may have been created on last Tuesday, but the difference here is, I think, that we may try to have a logical chain of reasoning (based on our observations about nature and the laws of physics) about free will, but we cannot really have similar debate about that particular Tuesday or, say, about the existence of a god. Thus, I find free will as a logically valid matter to be debated, and by that I mean that we can (experimentally or theoretically) inspect that when an atom A bumps into an atom B, C happens and then we can debate whether these events are determined by one another of if there is a degree of uncertainty somewhere along the chain that gives rise to things like free will. Tuesday or god do not give us the chance to have a similar logical way of reasoning.

      As strange as it may sound, I think we are actually not that far from each other. It just seems that we have subtle differences in our interpretation of the phenomena related to this matter, which gives rise to quite opposite final conclusions at the moment. You seem to have made up your mind regarding this, but I am still weighing the two possibilities and will add your input to the basket of free will.

      p.s. You may have mentioned somewhere, but do you consider all, most, or only few (humans and maybe apes and dolphins and such) animals to have free will? Like, if you look at a spider, do you think it makes choices and decisions, or is it completely on the mercy of its reflexes and reactions to external and internal signals it receives? I know that you cannot know the spider’s thoughts, but what is your feeling about it? To me, they look and function just like a very sophisticated robot might do! Or what about more complex animals, like mammals or birds? Do you consider plants to be completely deterministic, since we probably cannot say that they have any kind of will? Finally, do you think that everything is open, that nothing is determined or destined to happen, and if so, where does this uncertainty and possibility for different outcomes stem from?


      @JackBean
      : this is a very similar question but it is not directly related to free will. Because even if we were able to exactly pinpoint the requirements and building blocks for consciousness, we could not use that to answer the question about free will. With my example I was trying to point out that all the building blocks of the apparently free-willed machine that is our brain seem to follow purely deterministic reactions based on the flow of electrons and ions and atoms and molecules, so one would expect that the brain, assembled from these deterministic building blocks, is deterministic as well — in a same way as, say, a computer is. If we had a computer that was aware of itself, would it have free will, or would it still be on the mercy of the bits in its code that make it aware in the first place? Because all its calculations and reactions would ultimately stem from the fixed set of rules about how the code is executed in different situations. Or is it possible that computers simply cannot develop awareness and/or free will because of this reason?

      Mechanistically, though, the question about consciousness is pretty much the same as the question about free will, because we assume that they go hand in hand: when one is aware of itself, it can also make "aware" decisions. A very intriguing question, too, but I think it misses the point that I tried to make with my example.

    • #113720
      mnatashgaran
      Participant

      To determinists: What’s the benefit of free will delusion in human evolution? Doesn’t determinism peril morality?

    • #113721
      biohazard
      Participant
      quote mnatashgaran:

      To determinists: What’s the benefit of free will delusion in human evolution? Doesn’t determinism peril morality?

      Perhaps the delusion of free will (assuming it is a delusion for the purpose of this question) is just a by product of something else? Of our consciousness, for example. However, one could think that it also gives us the feeling of purpose, because we think we’re in control and thus makes us try harder and do better in the grand competition that is life.

      Of course, if everything truly is deterministic, then the question is perhaps irrelevant: we do as we do and feel as we feel because that is how the cascade flows, so to speak. Heck, if everything is already determined, everything is irrelevant in a way. And this is probably one reason why so many of us reject the idea of determinism: we do not feel that everything is irrelevant and we do feel that we can make our own choices, and these feelings are usually so immersive that we cannot think of any other possibility.

    • #113722
      JackBean
      Participant

      I didn’t want to use it as argument for free will. It was just analogy, because I hope you agree that we are aware of ourselves while most animals are not. So, there must be some line, we just not able to draw it. Similarly for the free will, only because we cannot say where the line is, doesn’t mean there is no free will.

    • #113723
      mnatashgaran
      Participant
      quote biohazard:

      one could think that it also gives us the feeling of purpose, because we think we’re in control and thus makes us try harder and do better in the grand competition that is life.

      When everything is determined and predictable, why is the delusion needed to make us try harder? Is it possible to gain in better situation than the determined one in the deterministic world?

      quote biohazard:

      Perhaps the delusion of free will (assuming it is a delusion for the purpose of this question) is just a by product of something else? Of our consciousness, for example.

      I agree… It’s possible.

      You reasoned that cells (like neurons) don’t have freedom of choice as an evident thing but I doubt that. The exact situation of electrons around nucleus isn’t predictable and they treat randomly. So we can think that everything has free will but only few beings like humans are aware of it.

    • #113724
      biohazard
      Participant
      quote mnatashgaran:

      When everything is determined and predictable, why is the delusion needed to make us try harder? Is it possible to gain in better situation than the determined one in the deterministic world?

      No, it would not be needed for anything, I just tried to come up with an explanation that would fit the evolutionary theme. Naturally if everything is already determined, nothing is "needed"; everything simply exists as a passing phase of a big chain reaction. And if we have free will, then of course the feeling of it is not a delusion in the first place.

    • #113737
      ughaibu
      Participant
      quote biohazard:

      do you consider all, most, or only few (humans and maybe apes and dolphins and such) animals to have free will?

      An agent has free will on any occasion when that agent makes and enacts a conscious choice from amongst realisable alternatives. The main disagreement amongst philosophers is as to whether or not there could be any freely willed actions in a determined world. Compatibilists, those who answer "yes" to the above question, interpret "realisable" in terms of either logical or physical possibility, whereas incompatibilists hold that free will requires actual possibility. By actual possibility they mean that there is a time zero at which the agent is aware of a finite set of at least two actions that are physically possible at time two and that there is, at time zero, no true statement about which of the set of actions the agent will perform at time two consequent to a conscious choice made at time one. Naturally there are various problems about what a "true statement" is or a "conscious choice", nevertheless, the basics are clear enough, I think. And as we appear to inhabit a non-determined world, we can consider the compatibilist position to be purely academic. So, your question reduces to one of which animals are conscious and amongst those, which, on at least some occasions, consider more than one before selecting an action. I haven’t got a strong opinion on the matter, I suspect that at least all mammals and birds have free will.

      quote biohazard:

      Do you consider plants to be completely deterministic, since we probably cannot say that they have any kind of will?

      Determinism is a well defined metaphysical thesis, as far as the free will question is concerned, and it makes no sense to talk about plants being "deterministic" unless one means something quite different from what philosophers are talking about when they talk about determinism. So I don’t know what you’re asking.

      quote biohazard:

      Finally, do you think that everything is open, that nothing is determined or destined to happen, and if so, where does this uncertainty and possibility for different outcomes stem from?

      If the world we inhabit is a non-determined world, then nothing is determined. Determinism is a global thesis, all or nothing. That’s all there is to it, the world either is determined or it isn’t. So you question; where does this uncertainty and possibility for different outcomes stem from? is another that doesn’t make any sense to me. What manner of statement would constitute an answer to that question?

    • #113738
      biohazard
      Participant

      I’m sorry, it seems my English has failed me here and therefore I used the term ‘determinism’ in a wrong context. I was referring to events purely within the natural sciences with no metaphysical or philosophical aspect in mind. With the word/term ‘determinism’ I meant that each reaction in the world is determined by the reactions preceding it and that each reaction determines the reactions succeeding it. ‘Reaction’ being any event that happens because of the laws of nature (a physical, chemical or biological interaction of photons, electrons, atoms, or molecules and such).

      From this kind of ‘natural determinism’ I was deriving the doubts of the existence of free will, and similarly I was asking if there is proof of anything being random in the world, because this would bring the element of uncertainty to this chain reaction and thus ‘break us free’ from our predetermined actions and reactions. I have understood that on the quantum level of things there might be some true randomness – that is, things happen regardless of what has happened before, or something – and something like this is where I see a possibility for free will to ’emerge’. Unfortunately my understanding of quantum physics is too limited to make any further conclusions about its effect on the laws of nature.

      In my opinion, the only metaphysical or philosophical aspect of free will is just the question: does it really matter? Whether or not we have free will, we act as if we had and are happy that way. Even the people who believe that there is no free will still act as if they had it!

    • #113905
      chatters
      Participant

      I think we need to undertand string theory better. Certainly we cannot account for all aspects of biology yet, for example there is too little information in dna to account for the complexities of brain structure.

    • #114284
      Ahsmeah
      Participant
      quote MarkHolland:

      A lot of people consider that because ‘lower’ animals are not aware of themselves as individuals that they act only from an ‘instinctual’ drive that makes them helplessly what they are… WE as humans on the other hand, are above and somehow removed enough from nature’s influence to rule our responses.

      No, not really. Goes back to what I said in the topic starter.

      quote MarkHolland:

      We remember past events, project future consequences, and have the command of our own thoughts and the actions upon which we ‘decide’ to undertake.

      Those memories are just cells in one giant bundle of symbiotic relationships.

      quote MarkHolland:

      But ask yourself this: Do you decide what you like the taste of? Do you really choose what attracts and repels you?

      You don’t decide what you like the taste of, it’s genetic.

    • #114367
      Fearnot
      Participant

      Hi, Ashmeah, you must be a very thoughtful and intuitive boy to bring up such a topic; keep it up!

      In answer to your question β€œdo we have the freedom of choice?”

      Yes, we do:

      Ashmeah wrote:

      β€œSince the body is made up of living and dead

      cells, including thoughts, would that make the

      "human being" technically predecided, and we

      would all be masses of cells interacting with

      the world in the shape of a human?”

      Yes, we are masses of cells interacting with the world but that doesn’t mean we are predecided. Don’t forget we are also made up of thoughts, and what we think depends on our individual experiences and understanding. Now, one may argue that our understanding of event depends on our cellular make up as people tend to understand the same event differently; but what would be said of identical twins that basically has similar cellular make up, but would interpret the same event differently and even be at different places at the same time! So if we are just bunch of cells, then we have no free will, we are just an advanced level of machines, but you feel it that you have free will, but the fact that you can’t prove it makes you wonder if it really exists.
      Human beings are not just bunch of cells but we are souls inhabiting a building of cells depending on our potentials, to help us grow (just as cells grow by food, souls grow by knowledge). Science has not yet proven the existence of souls, so it can’t prove the existence of free will. Yet we do feel and know that apart from this cells there’s another part of us that is also as essential as the cells.
      For instance, you may see someone for the first time, physically (cellularly), the person looks beautiful and you feel like associating with him/her, but when you get closer the person’s character (soul) is entirely ugly to associate with; later you encounter another person with 90% similarity in appearance to the first in context but the character is 100% different, how does the cells play a role in the choice of character? Even identical twins are likely to make different choices given the same two options.

      Secondly, going scientific, if we rule out the existence of souls, then we are just a bunch of cells.
      Biohazard wrote:
      β€œBrain imaging analyses have repeatedly shown that when a human makes a decision
      (e.g. they have to choose to press a red or
      blue button), the computer analyzing the
      images can tell which decision the person is
      going to make long before the person
      themselves is aware that they have made a decision. So the feeling of a free-willed
      decision comes after the brain has already
      decided.”
      This scenario does not rule out free will. If we are really made up of masses of cells, they are not just any cells, these cells are unique to us, therefore whatever these masses of cells chose, it is our free will choice ’cause the bunch of these unique cells makes who we are. We are not just aware of it at the moment of the decision by the brain ’cause of the distance the information will have to travel and the integrative process that must occur before the decision is carried out, don’t forget that the brain is still part of us made up of our unique cells.
      Concerning the issue of being predecided, I don’t think so, ’cause identical twins are not likely to press the same button in that scenario except their cellular make up is different in a way that is not yet discovered.

    • #114618
      ughaibu
      Participant
      quote biohazard:

      I was referring to events purely within the natural sciences with no metaphysical or philosophical aspect in mind. With the word/term ‘determinism’ I meant that each reaction in the world is determined by the reactions preceding it and that each reaction determines the reactions succeeding it. ‘Reaction’ being any event that happens because of the laws of nature (a physical, chemical or biological interaction of photons, electrons, atoms, or molecules and such).

      You appear to be talking about laws of science, philosophers distinguish these from laws of nature. Whether or not there are any laws of nature is a matter of dispute, and if there are, what manner of thing they are and whether or not they could support a determined world, are also matters of dispute.
      On the other hand, there clearly are laws of science and they allow us to manipulate the world to our advantage. In short, they’re a bit like recipes, so it’s quite puzzling that they would strike anyone as a reason to doubt the reality of free will. But, assume that we can take a complete and exact measurement of the relevant state of the world, at time zero, and have the calculating power to predict how the agent will behave at time two. At time one, we tell the agent what they have been predicted to do at time two. Unless the prediction is something quite trivial, like "the agent’s heart will beat", the agent can countermand the prediction. And we are committed to this, because countermanding the prediction is logically equivalent to observing it, and the sciences we appeal to for the relevant laws are dependent on observation, so we cannot simply rule out an observation which conflicts with our thesis. The consequence of this is that no law of empirical science can ever cast doubt on the reality of free will.

      quote biohazard:

      I was asking if there is proof of anything being random in the world, because this would bring the element of uncertainty to this chain reaction and thus ‘break us free’ from our predetermined actions and reactions.

      The randomness which conflicts with determinism, is mathematical randomness. In principle, a determined world is fully computable, this has various consequences and explains, inter alia, the present popularity of Zuse’s thesis with determinists.
      In classical mathematics, the probability of a real number being computable is zero. This means that the continued expansion of a string generated by non-algorithmic means, has a zero probability of being computable. We can construct such a string from controlled voluntary actions. For example, append, in sequence, to "0.", a "1" for any word written by me in this post, that has an odd number of letters and a "0" for any word with an even number; 0.100011001 etc. It would be begging the question against determinists to say that this string is random, but it is sufficient to show that there is no logical difficulty for controlled voluntary actions which are mathematically random.

      quote biohazard:

      In my opinion, the only metaphysical or philosophical aspect of free will is just the question: does it really matter?

      It matters in exactly the same way that evolution matters. The denial of free will is at least as irrational as the denial of evolution, both are observable. If we deny that which is observably the case, then we have no non-arbitrary way in which to talk about the world. Human beings are social animals, so they need to be able to communicate, and this requires that they have a world which is common to them all.

    • #114882
      Arlen1991
      Participant

      The world can be perceptible !

    • #114887
      biohazard
      Participant
      quote ughaibu:

      It matters in exactly the same way that evolution matters. The denial of free will is at least as irrational as the denial of evolution, both are observable.

      I still do not understand: how do you observe free will? I don’t even know how to study that, because you can never go back and prove that some decision could have been taken in any other way. Or can you?

      I do not deny evolution, we have got heaps and loads of evidence supporting it and not a single credible alternative theory.

      But about free will, as far as I understand, we have just two options and not any(?) direct piece of evidence supports the existence of free will. But we can empirically study biological or computational decision-making and see that it is just a network of very elaborate series of chain reactions that follow the most basic rules of physics and would support the deterministic view of the world.

      And I do not think that sufficient evidence for free will is that you feel like you had one! πŸ™‚

    • #114901
      Aymeric
      Participant

      I don’t understand how non-determined free will is observable…

      And even if it were, how would you tell that it is NOT an illusion deriving from the fact that you are a conscious being?
      Being conscious means being able to look at yourself WHILE being you, unlike other animals who can only be aware of what is around them without being aware that they are ‘someone’.
      And the fact that you can ‘watch yourself’ as you go along in your life (and thus make choices) is what creates the impression of free will.
      You look at yourself, and you see yourself doing something, and you tell yourself "I’m doing this thing for this or that reason". The very fact that you analyse the reasons behind your choices makes you forget or lose sight of deeper, ingrained, DETERMINED factors that push you to go for X rather than Y or Z. In other words, it is your consciousness that blinds you from determinism. It prevents you from seeing it by covering it up with rationales and reasons that are all made up by your consciousness itself.

      For instance, out of free will, you choose the green sweatshirt instead of the red one, and your consciousness tells you ‘because I prefer green, because green looks nicer’. And that makes you forget that your childhood bedroom was painted in green, which subconsciously became a nostalgic memory that you cherish without realising it. That’s just a made-up example, but this is a phenomenon that dictates practically EVERYTHING in our lives.

      And this is why, in my opinion, free will CAN be determined. The two concepts are not mutually exclusive. We have been determined to have this impression of free will, which actually only means ‘conscious choice’.

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