Free Will vs. Determinism.
Curious to know the thoughts of people here on the age old free-will/ determinism debate.
Free will is the essence of being human. We all have the ability to choose our actions - and accept the personal consequences of those actions.
The choices we make determine our experiences and existance in this life and are what provide our spiritual selves with the learning and understanding we require to become what we were created to be.
Without free will, there would be no growth.
One of my favorite quotes to use when counseling Managers on how to deal with poor judgement: "Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from poor judgement.":D
there is no such thing as free will. the concept of free will is often misunderstood. the same is true with determinism.
here is an example of what reality is really like: a car is determined to go places, but it never will unless it gets going. ergo, we all have a determined purpose, but unless we get up off the couch our role will never be fullfilled.
back to free will... what is the opposite of determinism? many people misbelieve it's free will, but it is not. it's chaos. look around you. there is no chaos. everything is ordered, driven and with purpose.
belief if free will springs from a belief in ego. both are false and the former is an artifact of the latter.
let's just use logic....
what is the opposite of determinism? non-determinism, meaning the inability to foresee or predict the outcome of anything. this is also defined as chaos. but lets look around us. we are able, with varying degress of probablity, to determine, predict and foresee through time the outcome of everything. probablity is a fuction of information. the less information that is known about a thing, the greater the probability of outcomes. therefore, for example, if all information is known about a coin flip, which includes the coin, tosser and environment, then the outcome can be determined with 100% accuracy. probablity, chance and free will are artifacts created due to a lack of information.
this is why it is of upmost importance to know thyself. once we understand ourselves, our purpose in this universe becomes clear - like a coin flip.
I wrote a nifty blog entry about this very topic as I was trying to figure it out as well. Here tis:
Destiny vs. Free Will
this is a complicated subject.
there is no such thing as free will or determinism, in the same way there is no such thing as temperature or time. temperature and time are averages of particles moving through space. the same is true with each of us. we are all products of causality. however, causality does not equate determinism (despite my previous posts). i'll explain and expand.
we are connected, not independent of our environment.
just as a flower will bloom under the right environment, the same is true with each of us. if we are in a bad, non-productive environment, moving to a better area is not a indicator or exercise of free will. it is an indicator of growth - the following of our path. but likewise, the following of our path does not mean literally destiny, fate or determinism, for we must take action to walk our path, we must take action for growth, which goes back to an implication of free will.
the terms "free will" and "determinism" are not adequate labels explain what happens.
the Buddhas phrase "inter-dependent arising" seems a better-suited term.
I think free will and determinism are as Joe said highly misinterpreted.
Free will and Determinism don't really exist as seperate entities. Rather, they are like two ends of one pole. They work together.
We all have free will because we all have the ability to respond. But there's also the aspect of determinism because we don't choose the stimulus that we're provided with. We can however accept the stimulus and work in a natural cooperation using our choice to respond.
Hope that made sense. =)
I believe in determinism, that action leads to consequence and that there are basic inviolable rules to the universe that direct this cause-effect cascade. Human actions happen to be a part of this cascade, simultaneously causing and being caused by the surrounding environment, not being independent of them.
However, that doesn't invalidate free will. Just because the future is predetermined doesn't mean that it matters that it's predetermined. You can try to predict the future, but by predicting it you allow yourself the possibility of changing it, therefore making your prediction moot. If you know the future and change it, then the future you knew wasn't really the future.
So is there really any difference between the future being the result of our conscious decisions of free-will independent of the laws of the universe, and being predetermined but unknowable? If you can't know the future, then why does it matter whether or not you can change it?
The average human being possesses a small degree of free will. At all other times, determinism applies.
I say that the average human being has only a small degree of free will, because most of the time, we function on autopilot. In accordance with our social conditioning; habits; and automated responses, rather than via the exercise of free will.
We are more evolved than earthworms, yet strikingly similar in some ways. Most of the time, we respond automatically to stimuli, just as earthworms do. Krishnamurti put it another way - most of the human race is asleep.
These are examples of the limitations of free will:
1. Someone says something to you, and you immediately lose your temper, a reaction which you later regret.
2. You are worrying about something which you already know you cannot help. You wish to stop, but you can't.
3. When you are at a restaurant and the waitress asks you what drink you want, you instinctively say, "Coke" because you have been programmed by Coke advertisements to say so.
4. Without quite knowing why, you seek to do the things which your church / parents / school / government wants you to do.
5. You stick a cigarette in your mouth and light up, even though this very morning, you'd told yourself to quit smoking.
6. You are not able to live in accordance with your personal values.
7. When you were a kid, your teacher told you that you were lazy & stupid. 30 years later, you still cannot shake off that belief although you would like to. Therefore you continue to feel bad about yourself.
You guys describe how free will is limited, and you are right, if it exists it would be. We cannot jump 10 feet in the air etc..., and other peoples free wills around us would limit our own. But just because you point out this fact does not mean that free will and determinism are compatible. You have missed the deeper aspect to the situation. That limited amount of free will could still be an illusion, could be causality underneath, and therefore predetermined.
So limited free will does not prove it's compatible with true determinism
Why did you get up to eat, because you were hungry. Why did you get up to eat when you were full, because you wanted to prove me wrong lol. You see everything we choose has a causal reason behind it. no matter what.
So our choices are predetermined
Going deeper; our brains are made of the same deterministic matter as everything else. Our mental activity is electrical impulses, electricity is the flow of electrons, electrons are particles of matter, matter obeys cause and effect. Our minds are not exempt from the laws of physics.
so our brains are predetermined
So what is free will? it would be the ability to spontaneously control cause and effect. so full determinism or total chaos(randomness) would both negate free will. so if quantum mechanics is true its uncertainty principles(randomness) would disprove determinism, but that would just replace on free will killer with another.
so quantum mechanics chaos/randomness does not prove free will exists
and you cant bring the supernatural in to support free will, one unproven thing does not prove another unproven thing. being an adult in reality isn't like being a spoiled child at home, you can't have everything you want. just because you believe something or want something to be true doesn't make it so.
so the supernatural does not prove free will exists, Erin. haha
i prefer to have a real discussion of the existence of free will, not a childlike one where people use the supernatural(which they've decided is true because they want it to be) to explain and justify free will(which they want to be true). why not save yourself the hassle and just say free will exists because you say so. lol
i make the truth what i want, i don't make what i want into the truth
so i consider everyones post above mine refuted, and free will stands as non existent.
oh and don't try and play the moral card with me either. theres three ways of looking at it from the moral perspective.
1-if free will doesn't exist we cant hold someone personally responsible for their crime. but we would still have to take action to prevent it from happening again. if lightening strikes you it had no control but you still put up lightening rods. so we would still lock criminals up.
2-if free will doesn't exist us locking them up would be out of our control too, so they would still receive 'punishment'.
3-or even us holding them personally responsible could still be part of the illusion just as free will is, so we would still continue to give them punishment.
so lack of free will doesn't affect morality or justice in anyway.
another reason why people argue for free will is freedom. if we have no free will we have no freedom right? well it doesn't matter, because everything would continue to be exactly as it is now. which is obviously good enough for everyone. so if free will doesn't exist then obviously we never really valued true freedom to begin with, therefore there would be no loss.
so lack of free will does not effect our current level of freedom in anyway.
More to the point, your reference to the laws of physics, in the context of the present discussion, indicates your view that if X is referable to the laws of physics, then X is predetermined.
I'm not so sure I agree with this. Firstly the laws of physics, as we currently understand them, don't deal very well with consciousness. Mass, momentum, energy, force, frequency, wavelength, time, distance - these we can fit into a physics equation and use as building blocks for each other. But so far I haven't seen a physics equation into which you can insert "consciousness".
For example, suppose I ask a physicist to prove, according to the laws of physics, that one rock has more mass than another rock. This is quite possible. I may ask the physicist to prove, according to the laws of physics, that one rock moving at high velocity has more energy than another rock (stationary). This is also quite possible.
But if I ask the physicist to prove, according to the laws of physics, that he has more consciousness than a rock, that is not quite possible. Even if intuitively we know that this must be so. The laws of physics simply cannot take consciousness into account, in their equations which describe reality.
Secondly, you have assumed that the fact that X is referable to the laws of physics means that X is predetermined. This, IMO, is also a debatable proposition. Simply because the laws of physics ultimately contain elements of non-determinacy, and introduce probability instead.
Refer for example to the collapse of the wavefunction (specifically the fact that a particle is neither a particle nor a wave, until a certain event occurs, and ujtil such event, it exists merely as a mathematical ghost). Refer also to Heisenberg's uncertainty principle.
Add quantum entanglement into the picture, and if we assume that every quantum particle has collided with at least one other quantum particle, what we get instead seems to be ......
..... an extremely uncertain, quite un-predetermined universe.
In addition, this argument of yours:
Assume that I have a reason for everything I do. While there may be a reason for everything I do, the reason is not necessarily the cause of the action.
For example, at 8 pm tonight, I may be full, or I may be hungry. In either case, I may or may not get up to eat.
Whether I ultimately get up or do not get up to eat, there will be a reason for doing or not doing so. But it is not predetermined whether I do get up to eat or not.
If you disagree, then tell me whether I will get up at 8 pm to eat or not. Whatever your answer, you may be right, or you may be wrong. I myself do not know. It's not pre-determined.
Furthermore, we have assumed that I have a reason for everything I do. In fact, this may not be true. There could be many things which I do, for which there is no particular reason, or whose reasons are unknown to myself, or whose reasons are ultimately not capable of being known (something like quantum particles existing as mathematical ghosts, prior to existing as a particle or a wave).
Ofcourse there is no free will! My existence and my brain activity does not break the laws of nature! Someday my body can be rebuilt atom by atom and the perfected laws of physics can and predict my every movement. The perfected laws of pscyhology based on physics, can predict my every thought.
Free-will is for the egotistical who wish to have power beyond that of nature itself.
although i would reword that.
free will is an illusion created by the ego to maintain a false sense of control over history (past/future).
however, despite all this, i am flirting with the notion that free will only exists as the ability or power to say "no" to something, thus granting the ability to break causality.
but still, that may just be my ego talking.
No. The more you know about a system, the less you will know about some other aspect of the system.
This follows simply from Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. Eg the more precisely you know a particle's position, the less you know of its momentum. And vice versa.
This isn't to be confused with the related but distinct observer effect. Basically you can describe it as follows - the more you seek to observe and measure a system, the greater the effect of your observation/measurement on the system itself. The system is thereby affected in a way which it would not have been affected, if you had not sought to observe or measure it.
Simple example - I seek to measure the temperature of a glass of hot water. When I insert the thermometer, the thermometer itself absorbs some heat from the water, thereby altering the temperature of the water, which was what I sought to measure in the first place.
Similarly, the more I scrutinise my own possible reasons for getting up or not getting up to eat or not eat, the more I am likely to create new reasons in my own mind for getting up or not getting up to eat or not eat. Reasons which would not have existed, if I had not conducted the scrutiny in the first place.
Thus the process of investigating whether a thing is predetermined, itself affects the question of whether it is or is not predetermined.
Take it a few steps further ...... well, basically, you get the Law of Attraction (every thought you think affects reality in some way) or karma (every thought you think predisposes you to further think similar thoughts, since we are habit-forming creatures).
It is like conducting a survey to find out whether people are in favour of a particular government policy or not. As you ask your survey questions, the survey respondent is forced to think about your questions. It is possible that this thinking itself will cause a change in the respondent's opinion of the policy.
In fact, the more questions you ask, and the more detailed the answers you demand, the more likely you will cause a change in the respondent's opinion.
You know the context of the above quote, don't you? Here is an article that explains the background of why Einstein said that.
Does God Play Dice with the Universe? - Philosophy of Science - Emc2
The last sentence of the article is:
it's only logical.
Einstein believed there is another feature to quantum mechanics that is presently unknown. along with him, there is a growing movement to do away with the randomness of QT. in the next five years i am sure one of the several explanations that breaks the illusion of the seeming random nature of reality will be widely accepted with proof and will go mainstream.
we are determined to do so ;)
If every event is capable of being predicted 100% by having the information of each underlying cause (down to the most miniscule butterfly effect), then, surely, that means the universe evolves in one way only.
Whether we tried to predict or not, whether we sat and did nothing or not, would not matter, since everything would just happen according to the previous conditions which make it happen. There would be a totally rigid evolution of the universe in one possible way only. The whole history of the universe, past, present and future, would be a frozen tableau, each moment fixed in time like a photograph.
If we believe that, then there is no free will.
However, if we believe that it is not rigidly fixed, that reality is more fluid, that possibilities rise up to, and fall away from, actualization in ways we still do not fully understand, then, perhaps there is still a case for free will.
The prediction itself, or the non-prediction, changes the outcome. Therefore it does matter whether we tried to predict or not.
Example - if a very large number of people predicted that the stock market will go up, they will rush to buy stocks. Since there are so many buyers, the stock market will go up.
If a very large number of people predicted that the stock market would go down, they will rush to sell their stocks. Since there are so many sellers, the stock market will go down.
Therefore we may say that the stock market's performance was not pre-determined. It may have gone up, or it may have gone down. The direction was not pre-determined. It went one particular way, because of the nature of prediction made.
Your very attempt to observe the butterfly, alters the butterfly effect. For example, you seek to gather information about which way the butterfly is flying, but to gather such information, you get close to the butterfly, and frighten it, thereby causing it to fly away in a particular direction that it would not have flown it, if you had not tried to gather information about it. Therefore the butterfly effect is altered.
From an external, global viewpoint where I could theoretically see all the pre-conditions for an event to happen, I would take into account your obervation and effect on the butterfly effect and would know from all the causative pre-conditions the one and only outcome.
I'm not saying I agree with it, just explaining the possible case for no free will. No matter what you did or didn't do, the pre-conditions would produce the one result. The current state, whether you are altering the butterfly effect or not, would generate only one certain outcome based on the causative factors in the current state.
We have free will within the context and parameters of a universe that has natural laws (not deterministic).
godot, are you using the popular Copenhagen interpretation of QT in real-life situations?
another question: do you believe in a real relationship between the human brain and QT?
(i am young, and restless. if you sense that i am coping an attitude, i apologize, because i am trying not to.)
a quote from agent smith with "free will" added by me at the end for humor:
Illusions, Mr. Anderson. Vagaries of perception. The temporary constructs of a feeble human intellect trying desperately to justify an existence that is without meaning or purpose. And all of them as artificial as the Matrix itself, although only a human mind could invent something as insipid as free will.
(this is my attempt to add humor to the converstation)
Hardly anybody liked my thread :(:
I think it was determined that you believe you have free will :D.
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