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    Thread: Do we really have a free will?

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      Do we really have a free will?

      I'm going to share something that's been on my mind lately, and I'm sure that this thought has crossed others minds as well.

      Today I saw a hot babe walking across the street, I was sexually attracted to her. However, attraction isn't a choice. I can't CHOOSE who I'm attracted to. I can't choose wether I take an interest in something, it just feels appealing to me. Do we really have a free will? Can we really, actually choose what we are or how we think about something?

      I honestly don't think so. It doesn't make me feel less comfortable, nor does it make me feel comfortable. It just is. And I honestly don't give two shits.

      Do you really think such a thing as free will exists? Discuss below.

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      Oh, so you jumped on her and had sex right there? Or did you decide to let her walk away?

      We might not have any choice over impulses, but thanks to the greatly amplified human consciousness that sets us apart from our ancestors, we don't just react mindlessly to whatever instinct or panic tells us to do - we review the options and decide which one would make the most sense.

      In fact as I understand it, that's exactly what the conscious mind is - a sort of redundancy program that allows us to review choices and think consciously about the possible outcomes of each choice, to give us greater control over our actions than animals who react almost completely unconsciously to everything, acting only on instinct and fight/flight response. The neocortex - the 'human brain' is a thick mass of tissue that wraps around the 2 older sections - the 'lizard brain' at the top of the spinal cord that we share with our oldest vertebrate ancestors, and the 'mammal brain' or Limbic System, home of emotions and empathy that we share with mammals. Evolution can't do away with old systems, it can only add on to them and disable some functionality in those old systems, so this is how the brain had to develop, like an onion in layers built around older layers. Most of the functionality of the conscious mind is entirely in the neocortex or human brain (learned all this smart stuff from a Carl Sagan book - don't I sound intelligent? ).

      What this means is that we share the unconscious mind with our animal ancestors - all the instinct and fight/flight kind of stuff - that's where we don't have a choice. But the entire function of the conscious mind is to allow us to review possible choices, so we can think about what could happen if we do x or if we do y. It also allows us to schedule our time, to budget our money, and to decide to deviate from these charts and graphs when it makes sense. Not that we always make the right choice of course, but the point is we do make choices. Do you decide to go to work in a local factory right out of high school, or to go off to college? This is something that instinct doesn't handle. Nor does the fight or flight response or similar unconscious snap decision-making apps. It takes deliberate conscious decision making - a lot of it applied over a period of years.
      Last edited by Darkmatters; 06-01-2013 at 07:39 PM.
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      Human conciousness is composed of two parts. The identity of the preceiver is a compossition of the two. The two parts are the impulses and instincts of the human as an animal, and the other is composed of that etheral stuff we may call a spirit or soul or self-awareness. It is hardly possable to experience your identity completely from the soul side, with out the experience being highly colored by the natural aspects of the body.

      The best thing i feel one can do is to see this and view your personality as suspect (am I angery due to a biological function?). I am saying that when you have a passion, such as lust or anger, it helps to know that the human body causes that feeling, but the awareness can choose to control the actions.
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      Quote Originally Posted by sivason View Post
      Human conciousness is composed of two parts. The identity of the preceiver is a compossition of the two. The two parts are the impulses and instincts of the human as an animal, and the other is composed of that etheral stuff we may call a spirit or soul or self-awareness.
      Different words to say the same thing. Impulses and instincts are from the unconscious or animal part. And self-awareness is from the conscious mind.

      I'd say every animal above the level of insect experiences some degree of conscious thought (no idea if insects do), but it's minimal until you get to the more advanced animals like cats, dogs, dolphins etc. Actually another thing I learned from that Sagan book that applies here - every one of us experiences the cycle of evolution through our lives - we begin in the womb as a single cell, develop gradually through a simple aquatic form then we emerge from the liquid medium onto dry land where we begin breathing air and crawl on all 4s before eventually rising to walk on two legs, freeing our hands to manipulate objects, and gradually learn to speak and communicate. It's the story of evolution of animal life (our line). And in the earlier stages of it we're almost completely unconscious, consciousness only slowly developing. So we've all experienced what it;s like to be almost entirely unconscious and at the whim of instincts and impulses - we had to grow out of it to become adults. And though it can be hard to remember our childhood, we experience unconsciousness every night in the form of non-lucid dreams. The lucid ones are more like being conscious, where we can make decisions and act on them.

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      Very nice!
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      Yeah, I thought it was pretty fascinating stuff.

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      People seem stuck on two possibilities, either free-will which appears intuitively correct but illogical when given proper examination, or determinism which often depresses people into something nihilistic.

      I personally do not believe in free will, but I do believe in choice. However, the problem arises when one considers a singular entity making the choices. In reality, the human is more like a democracy, where the strongest impulse wins. If the voice of reason (superego) outweighs the animal impulse to have sex with whatever it's sexually attracted to immediately (the id) then that vote creates the decision.

      We do not control our emotions, but we also don't really control our choices. But the illusion of control is very important for us to make proper choices. The illusion of control is something of evolutionary necessity.

      However, despite my belief that we don't really have freewill, I also do not believe in determinism. I believe in something more random. But that's a topic for another time.

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      Quote Originally Posted by sivason View Post
      Human conciousness is composed of two parts. The identity of the preceiver is a compossition of the two. The two parts are the impulses and instincts of the human as an animal, and the other is composed of that etheral stuff we may call a spirit or soul or self-awareness. It is hardly possable to experience your identity completely from the soul side, with out the experience being highly colored by the natural aspects of the body.

      The best thing i feel one can do is to see this and view your personality as suspect (am I angery due to a biological function?). I am saying that when you have a passion, such as lust or anger, it helps to know that the human body causes that feeling, but the awareness can choose to control the actions.
      I'm sure you've experienced certain emotions that are just too strong to suppress, like when you're very happy or sad and you can't just do anything about it. You feel that way. With controlling actions do you mean bodily actions or your thought process?

      Sometimes it's hard to let go. Sometimes you shouldn't live life, but life should live you if you understand what I mean. Letting go and just doing something without second thought or prejudice. I personally believe this is something everyone wants to do at times, but sometimes it's just too hard.

      I like your view on the human consciousness sivason.

      Quote Originally Posted by Darkmatters View Post
      What this means is that we share the unconscious mind with our animal ancestors - all the instinct and fight/flight kind of stuff - that's where we don't have a choice. But the entire function of the conscious mind is to allow us to review possible choices, so we can think about what could happen if we do x or if we do y. It also allows us to schedule our time, to budget our money, and to decide to deviate from these charts and graphs when it makes sense. Not that we always make the right choice of course, but the point is we do make choices. Do you decide to go to work in a local factory right out of high school, or to go off to college? This is something that instinct doesn't handle. Nor does the fight or flight response or similar unconscious snap decision-making apps. It takes deliberate conscious decision making - a lot of it applied over a period of years.
      Lately I've been in a fight/flight situation. I was with a friend and 4 guys came up to us and started trying to make a fight happen. We chose to ignore it, but I knew that if it were just these 4 guys versus us two I would've beat the crap out of them and left them bleeding on the very same spot. We were 18 and 17 then, but these guys were all 16. So I figured they would have some older brothers or friends waiting outside, thus I decided not to fight and just walk away.

      Was this free will? I wasn't scared or freaked out, that's for sure. I don't believe this was free will, I'm just not the kind of person to make a fight happen over something that makes no sense at all.
      Last edited by Athylus; 06-02-2013 at 01:36 PM.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Darkmatters View Post
      Different words to say the same thing. Impulses and instincts are from the unconscious or animal part. And self-awareness is from the conscious mind.

      I'd say every animal above the level of insect experiences some degree of conscious thought (no idea if insects do), but it's minimal until you get to the more advanced animals like cats, dogs, dolphins etc. Actually another thing I learned from that Sagan book that applies here - every one of us experiences the cycle of evolution through our lives - we begin in the womb as a single cell, develop gradually through a simple aquatic form then we emerge from the liquid medium onto dry land where we begin breathing air and crawl on all 4s before eventually rising to walk on two legs, freeing our hands to manipulate objects, and gradually learn to speak and communicate. It's the story of evolution of animal life (our line). And in the earlier stages of it we're almost completely unconscious, consciousness only slowly developing. So we've all experienced what it;s like to be almost entirely unconscious and at the whim of instincts and impulses - we had to grow out of it to become adults. And though it can be hard to remember our childhood, we experience unconsciousness every night in the form of non-lucid dreams. The lucid ones are more like being conscious, where we can make decisions and act on them.
      Sounds like recapitulation theory. I don't think it's aged too well since Sagan (or Hegel). At the least, embryonic ontogeny is a lot more nuanced than these terms of 'passing through phylogenetic history'. What is interesting to me is what is called atavism. This is the phenomenon of people being born with tails, or more commonly, extra nipples, and such. What this comes from is the fact that ancient genes that were expressed in our evolutionary ancestor's phenotypes were not erased, more like 'deactivated' so that they are not expressed in modern organisms unless a genetic 'mistake' happens and these long-dormant genes are expressed.

      On-topic; I usually hover at a level very close to determinism. I just think that there are so many cultural and historical factors, both at the societal and individual level, that weigh in so heavily in every decision. Free will seems like just a tool to sort out these unalterable factors.

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      ^ I'm not sure what you're trying to say. Maybe it has been discredited in biological circles, but then I'm not making any specific biological claims. I'm just using the parallels between evolution and human development as an illustration. Do you disagree with any particular part of what I said? I don't see how anybody could argue against it as I presented it. We absolutely do go through the stages I mentioned, in the same order as our evolutionary ancestors did. And the development of a human mind loosely parallels the development of the mind through evolution up to our species.

      I'm not trying to say it's exactly the same - of course not! For instance, I would't claim that dogs think the same way 3 year old children do or anything like that. I think that's the part of the theory that's been discredited, or other very specific claims people may have made from it. But again, I'm only using it as a loose illustration. All I'm saying is that as individuals we start off largely unconscious and gradually develop conscious awareness in stages, and that it kind-of sort-of parallels the way consciousness seems to have developed through evolution. Nothing more specific than that. I don't see how anybody can deny that. From what I've read of the science of the mind it seems our evolution has been toward ever-increasing freedom from instinct and a developing ability to make decisions our ancestors couldn't.

      It seems like we all have different definitions of what free will is. To me it means we're not slaves to our unconscious instincts or desires the way many animals are. What would actually constitute free will by your definition Indie?
      Last edited by Darkmatters; 06-07-2013 at 04:56 AM.

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      There's an older version of recapitulation theory that I thought you were evoking, that the embryo goes through these stages reflecting its evolutionary past physically before it resembles the species that it is supposed to be.

      Here's what I've heard about it:
      107 - What is Evo-Devo? : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive

      Sure not being bound to instinct alone is a measure of freedom, but there are lots of other things that can infringe upon free will besides instinct. Like I mentioned, history and culture make many of our decisions for us. Sorry that doesn't really answer your question and I do have some thought on it but I need to think about how to word them.
      Last edited by IndieAnthias; 06-07-2013 at 01:40 PM.

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      A good while back, I stumbled upon a Sam Harris talk on Youtube that covers this topic very well. He's of the opinion that free will doesn't exist and he puts forward some very simple, well reasoned (and I would say, convincing) arguments to back up that opinion. The video's quite long, but for anyone interested in the subject, I would recommend watching it:

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      Nope I do not think it exists. The choices we make are determined by our previous experiences and genetics, environment, diet etc.

      I can't stop feeling angry when I haven't eaten. Maybe eventually I can realise it is useless and dull it down a lot but only because I have read about meditation and introspection. Or maybe some bad thing happened when I was angry so I decide it's a bad thing to feel.

      I think it is quite obvious there is no free will. One part of our brain has some level of control over other parts, but really it is at their mercy.
      You're not gonna suddenly go and kill someone unless you have some emotional or logical reason to.

      Think about the bigger decisions in your life. They have undoubtedly all been made after having realised certain things recently previous to the decisions. Whatever will help your emotions and/or ego the most is what you decide to act on.
      These can be negative emotional outcomes if the ego wants to feel sorry for itself and therefore take pleasure in it.

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      Ok - Sleeper, I don't have time to watch that video right now but I will when I can. But I would seriously like an answer from some of you guys - let me post this so nobody can miss it:

      What exactly would constitute free will in your opinion?

      Cause it sounds like you guys are saying we're not free just because we can't suddenly become somebody totally different from who we are. Of course our choices are largely determined by our past experiences... but so what? If the ability to choose what we do isn't free will, then I wish somebody would define what they mean by free will..

      Tommo - suddenly deciding to murder somebody for no reason wouldn't be free will - it would just be randomness.
      Last edited by Darkmatters; 06-08-2013 at 08:05 AM.
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      Quote Originally Posted by Darkmatters View Post
      What exactly would constitute free will in your opinion?
      This I believe is where a lot of the breakdown in communication occurs with the free will debate. How we define free will is ultimately going to determine whether or not we believe it exists. And it looks like we're just putting forward conclusive opinions without providing any detail on our own definitions.

      For me, free will means having genuine control over your own being and your own actions. And I think, when we look closely at this issue, the whole notion of genuine control simply fades away. It's true we make choices, but those very choices are determined by many factors over which we have no say. For instance, if you had the choice between chocolate and vanilla ice cream and you chose chocolate, because it's your favourite. When did you decide that chocolate was your favourite flavour? Did you, at some point in your life, make the conscious decision to like chocolate more than vanilla? I'm guessing you didn't. And we see the same question pop up in so many other places. When did you choose your favourite movie? Your favourite book? Your most treasured values? Your greatest fear? Did you have any real choice over any of this, or did it all just happen and now you're simply going along with it?

      The way I see it, we're just natural machines reacting to what goes on in the world around us. We don't choose our genetic makeup or the environment we're born into, and it is these things that ultimately shape us into what we are. One bad gene can determine whether or not you're born a psychopath. One whiff of air can change the chemical makeup of your brain, affecting your mood and altering the choices you make. The most minuscule, seemingly insignificant factors can have such a tremendous impact on your mind. As you take all of these things into consideration, it becomes less and less likely that you are the source of your decisions.

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      Very well said! And I agree for the most part - though personally I don't subscribe to the idea of favorites - at least not in the simplistic way most people mean. If somebody asks me what's my favorite color I'll respond with "for what?". When I was a child and thought as a child I used to just say Blue, but now I have a much more subtle nuanced understanding of color (being an artist tends to do that) and I know blue is a whole family of colors. But I also don't favor blue for all things in all contexts, and I understand that the concept of favorites is pretty dumb.

      And for the record, sometimes I'll get chocolate, sometimes vanilla, or sometimes I want to taste the rainbow. Do you really always get the same flavor? And I'm a creature of habit to a large extent - I tend to choose between just a few restaurants, and at each one I choose between a pretty limited number of items. That's just out of habit and simplicity though - I can and sometimes do get crazy and go someplace completely new or order something totally different.

      I know you presented things the way you did as an oversimplified illustration, and to make another point later, but I want to point out that many of the things you say we're unable to choose don't indicate alack of free will. We can't choose our heredity, but that's not because we lack free will - it's because we were born to the parents we were born to before we had a reasoning mind capable of making a choice. It's like you're saying we can't choose to put the cart before the horse, therefore no free will. Ok, I know you weren't literally saying that - but this is starting to get the the heart of what I think a lot of people are doing on this conversation. Of course there are many many things that we can't choose. Much of our lives are pre-determined to a huge extent. But I'll try to express my thoughts more clearly and concisely..

      AS human beings we do have a much greater range of choices available than any species before us. Many of these choices are complex and involve decision making on many levels, so aren't obvious when you first start to think about the idea of free will - for instance if somebody decides they want to be an astronaut (for example) or a doctor or an illustrator or clergy. You can't just decide it and then instantly be it (which seems to be why some people are arguing there's no free will). It's a meta-decision that requires a whole complex web of other decisions over a period of many years if not decades - but by making that initial decision you can set things in motion and at the end of those years or decades your life will be very different that it would have been had you made a different decision.

      And choices like this make humans very different from any other animal that we know of. Dogs can't weigh options and make decisions on anything like this level - they're pretty much stuck going through life only thinking of the immediate present and making simple survival decisions mostly from instinct. They don't have anything like the complex neocortex (seat of the conscious mind) that we've developed - the entire purpose of which is to allow us to think about how we think - to review and even preview options, so we can make more informed decisions.

      So all I'm saying is that we definitely and unarguably have more options for making life-altering decisions than anything before us ever has. And this is where I think a lot of other people make a different mistake - they then leap to "but that hasn't made us morally superior - the decisions the human species has made are terrible - war, corporate domination, political treachery - etc etc".

      Well, I'm not arguing that - and really that wasn't the original question, was it? The question is quite simply "Do we have free will?" - not "Does free will make us morally superior?"

      Some people also seem to b taking it to a ridiculous extreme - basically saying "We don't have absolute and total free will in every facet of our lives - therefore no." Lol well ok - I'll grant you that we can't decide to be something that we aren't physically or otherwise capable of becoming - like a bird for instance. But that wouldn't be free will, that would be magic. Yes, free will has to operate within certain constraints that in many instances (more than we'd like to admit I think) can be extremely constraining.

      I'll try to condense my thoughts into a single sentence as well as I can:

      I suppose I'd say that much about our lives is predetermined - by biological/hereditary factors and by laws of physics etc - but more so than any species that has come before us we do have the ability to review options and make decisions in which we're not slaves to instinct or simple short-term thinking.

      This is a brand new ability in evolutionary terms - we're still growing into it. And like children who's neocortex isn't yet done growing, we fumble around and make bad decisions a lot (as a species I mean) - decisions based on short-term goals and selfishness (war, political/religious/corporate domination etc). I'm not saying we're definitely going to 'grow up' and become morally perfect before we destroy life on earth (or at least most of it) - let me throw that out there before somebody comes in and knee-jerks.
      Last edited by Darkmatters; 06-08-2013 at 06:13 PM.

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      I can't believe I'm saying this but I recommend you check out that Sam Harris talk when you get the chance (I'm not usually much a fan of him, but mainly for stylistic reasons.) I listened to it last night and I think he put a good argument forth. One thing he said in particular is an exact thought that I've had before, and I think it carries a lot of weight when you extrapolate out the consequences. (Not verbatim here, lots of my own words). Imagine the following thought experiment.

      You observe a person make an action based on their choice, and you view it critically, perhaps judgmentally. Now imagine that time were reset perfectly as it was before the action, and you were put in that person's shoes, atom for atom. You would do the exact same thing again, because there is no sense of your own self to do otherwise.

      I've had this idea before and have relied upon it to nurture a strong philosophy of nonjudgmentalism, and moral relativism. I've also taken a fair share of criticism for it, even from family members, who are quite sure that judgmentalism is a proper way to look at people who do wrong. Anyway this paragraph is a bit off topic. But what do you think about that scenario?

      Harris said something that kinda bugged me in his talk, something like "the great worry" is that we won't have any grounds for personal responsibility if we jettison the idea of free will. I'm more bugged by the fact that people would worry abut such a thing than that he said it.

      From your paragraph Dark, it sounds like you are advocating a model of free will that is at the end of a continuum, with determinism at the other end. At the determinism end would be virtually all other life on earth. I think the extreme end-point of the continuum on the free will side would be a very god-like being. So the idea is that humans would be somewhere along the continuum. All the factors we've mentioned so far in this thread would nudge us a bit closer to determinism: instincts, history, culture, genes, the weather, the language we speak, etc. You have to include many imperceptible things as well, as psychology is finding out (Harris detailed these pretty well) that do in fact lead to an "illusion of choice". Whether or not all this actually amounts to moving us the remainder of the way along the continuum to determinism, I'm not ready to say for sure. But for practical reasons, I am willing to accept that there really is very little left. I think it wonderfully enables an attitude of compassion for all of life, and marginalizes things like pride and regret (as Harris said).

      I can even allow for Harris's extreme claim he made at the beginning of his talk, that we may yet find that free will is a nonsensical concept to begin with.
      Last edited by IndieAnthias; 06-09-2013 at 12:00 AM.

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      Thank you for putting together so many words! It's good to read something from you here that doesn't sound like a tweet! (I just mean here on this thread up till now - not all the time)

      Though I wouldn't say that animals are at the extreme opposite end of the spectrum - I'd say 'higher' animals all have some level of conscious decision-making ability, though much more limited than ours. The simplest animals of course have the least, moving on up till you reach humans, where there's a pretty huge leap thanks to the much more highly developed cerebrum.

      I'm not sure I accept the validity of that argument - that given the exact same circumstances you'd do the exact same thing every time. I mean of course, I accept that it's probably true - but I'm not sure that's really a good measure of what free will actually is. It makes certain assumptions that don't apply to all decision making - for instance if I understand it correctly you're only setting the clock back a few seconds. What about decisions that take a lot longer than that, like the one I mentioned earlier - what school to go to or whether to just go to work in a factory or join the army instead. That's not a decision you make in a few seconds, and it involves a lot of very complex variables. To me this is a much more 'human level' type of decision - as opposed to the much simpler decisions most people seem to be bringing up here. What kind of food to eat is really something even an animal can decide differently from time to time, assuming they have a choice in the matter (if you'd put out several different things for them). The cerebral cortex allows us to think abstractly on multiple levels, and to make complex decisions involving many variables - how come all the examples I've seen people mention so far completely ignore this? Its a new type of decision-making that no animal is capable of. And I agree - maybe we don't have MUCH free will - we might only really exercise it a few dozen times in a lifetime. But then all I'm saying is it's more than any other living thing we're aware of has. Little is not the same as none. That's another argument a few people seem to be saying - essentially "We have very little ability to choose really - therefore no free will" - which doesn't make any sense if you think about it!

      How about this - a different take on that same example (about going back a few seconds and making the same decision each time). What if you lived the same day over and over - sort of like Groundhog Day, only unlike Bill Murray you don't know it's happening. When you've lived the same day a hundred times, do you think at the end of the day you'll have done exactly the same things a hundred times? I think some days you'll end up having accomplished and experience very different scenarios - you might have the same breakfast each day but by the time bedtime rolls around I'd say you've got the capacity for some very different things to have occurred - because you've made different choices. But then I'm not sure this is really about free will - it's more about randomness or chaos theory. The drop of water never rolls off exactly the same way twice. That's why I say it seems like a lot of people are discussing randomness rather than free will.

      Free will doesn't really mean "Will you make different decisions given the exact same circumstances?" - it's more "Do you have the ability to decide what you'll do?"

      So I don't think that's really a good thought experiment. I'm not sure offhand what would be, but I'm starting to think even some of the deep thinkers of the past have gotten side-tracked into fallacious thinking about free will.
      Last edited by Darkmatters; 06-09-2013 at 12:30 AM.
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      It's true that humans have more sophisticated minds than other animals, but I don't see in that any implication that this grants us free will. I'm not trying to make the argument here that humans are creatures of instinct and so have no ability to rationally weigh up their choices. It's obvious that humans have a far better capacity for complex thought than other animals. But although we may have a greater sense of self-awareness, we can't deny the fact that our minds are entirely subject to their physical makeup and the external forces they constantly interact with. The proteins in our diets, the temperature of our surroundings, the humidity of the air we breathe can all have an effect on our mood to the point of forcing us into a deep and severe depression. These things impact on the chemical structure of our brains, influencing our thoughts, which in turn influence our decisions. It's a chain of cause and effect. And with so many prior causes determining how we act, where does the freedom of will come from?

      You seem to accept that such constraints exist but say that free will somehow finds a way to operate around them. But what reason is there to believe this? In order for a decision to be considered truly "free", would it not have to come solely from the mind, with no interference from external stimuli? How would such a thing be possible in the physical world? How can you set something apart from the components that make it up or the forces that interact with it?

      The way it appears to me, the conscious mind is simply a filtering agent. It sorts all of our abstract thoughts and feelings into coherent concepts that can be thoroughly planned out and acted upon. It's certainly a beneficial tool that we have used to our great advantage, but I don't see any reason to think of it as an independent arbiter of choice.

      I'm glad you're going to watch the video when you get a chance. I really enjoyed it when I first came across it and Sam Harris puts forward the argument far more eloquently than I can.

    20. #20
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      Quote Originally Posted by Heavy Sleeper View Post
      But what reason is there to believe this? In order for a decision to be considered truly "free", would it not have to come solely from the mind, with no interference from external stimuli? How would such a thing be possible in the physical world? How can you set something apart from the components that make it up or the forces that interact with it?
      Exactly!! This seems to be why everybody is saying there's no such thing - because we can't make choices somehow in absolute isolation. But there's no such thing as absolute isolation from external or internal influences - what the heck does that even mean? How would you achieve that - have your brain removed and put in a vat? Hell, the temperature and saline content of the water would still influence your decisions! So if that's your definition of free will, then no, it obviously can't exist. By that very definition it's an impossibility.

      Everything we do is of course done fully immersed in our influences. So you can take that out - of ANY term referring to any kind of plant or animal or even objects, solids and liquids and gasses. Everything exists immersed in its environment and influenced by it. What's the point of asking questions about imaginary things that can't possibly exist? It's like asking how many angels can dance on the head of a pin!

      You have to deal with the real world - with real people who are not isolated minds free of bodies.

      So if the actual definition of free will is "making choices absolutely independent of external and internal factors" then obviously there's no such thing. But that's because the term is an impossibility. What the hell does free will even mean if it doesn't refer to anything that can exist in reality? It's actually a really stupid question, and I think it was invented long before the age of science and reason, and probably intended to mean "can we act against the dictates of Fate and God?"

      Sorry, I thought we were talking about the real world.
      Last edited by Darkmatters; 06-09-2013 at 01:49 AM.

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      Well, as far as I know, that's the definition that most people go with. And you're right, it does make it impossible. But it just seems like the most appropriate definition for the term. I don't think anyone seriously doubts that humans have a will. It's the inclusion of the word "free" that complicates things. If we all disagree on the fundamental definition of the thing we're discussing, then the rest of the debate it just going to be people talking past each other. People on the forum have pointed this out before and they're right. It tends to render the discussion pointless.
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      cbf reading all responses, sorry if just repeating, but you're right Dark, not being able to choose some things doesn't automatically prove lack of free will.
      However, those examples just show how little control we do have, if any, and it's harder to show we don't even have control over which ice-cream we eat every time, or even whether we will walk on the right or left side of the path.

      That's why I left that out of my post.

      Basically any decision you make is only due to which emotions are most prevalent for each option.
      How is that free will????
      If you like the blueberry, you feel good when you look at it, so you go and get it.
      You're not going to choose vanilla and rockyroad, BECAUSE YOU HAVE NO FREE WILL.
      Now, right now if presented with this option you might say "Well, fuck you, I'm gonna choose rocky road!"
      But you'd only be doing that because of this experience and you wanna prove me wrong.
      Not free will.

      Yes the murder thing WOULD be free will. If the decisions you make are not based on your past experiences and emotions and environment, then you could just decide to do that.
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      ^ But it would make no sense to suddenly decide to murder somebody for no reason. Well - actually I guess people do it sometimes - but the headlines don't usually read "Man Demonstrates Free Will". More like "Man Loses His Mind." But to be serious about it - why on earth would somebody suddenly make a random decision like that for no reason? And if it's from insanity then that's still a mitigating circumstance.

      Free will like that I have no use for - and I don't think anybody wants it if that's what free will means.

      About the ice cream thing - what if you like several different kinds equally well? Then it's kind of like a crap shoot.

      But yeah, I'll concede that if we use the hardass definition then there's no such thing as free will. I consider that the ivory-tower head-in-the-clouds philosopher version though - you know, the kind of philosophers who used to actually discuss how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.

      When I looked it up there were basically 2 definitions - one just says "The human ability to make choices". You know the other one. I have absolutely no problem with not having that kind of free will.

      ** Edit:

      Oh, and I knew something was wrong when I found myself doubting the wisdom of man's greatest thinkers - any time I consider myself smarter than anybody it usually means I misunderstood something!
      Last edited by Darkmatters; 06-09-2013 at 03:39 AM.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Darkmatters View Post
      Oh, and I knew something was wrong when I found myself doubting the wisdom of man's greatest thinkers - any time I consider myself smarter than anybody it usually means I misunderstood something!
      Ha! Well I wouldn't call myself one of man's greatest thinkers, but if that's how you view me, I have no objection to it.
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      ^ I would only agree to that one against my free will! And my better judgement!

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