Is free will possible in a deterministic universe?

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Sarkus, Jun 7, 2019.

  1. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    That's the question of the thread. Basically, Sarkus and Baldeee are arguing that to have free will we would have to somehow be able to break the laws of physics. I disagree.

    I wouldn't say it ever overrides our decisions. Rather, our decisions are part of the "destiny" you're talking about.

    In this thread, we're not arguing about whether we will do what we will do (except when posters deviate from the assumption of determinism, which keeps happening for some reason). We're arguing about whether what we do is freely done.
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  3. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    You can have a deterministic (with perfect information) Universe but if you that it has a destiny in mind then you are speaking of the supernatural.

    There's no "in mind" involved. If you know where every atom is then you could run things forward or backward and how it plays out would be predictable (in such a Universe). There is no "destiny" however.
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  5. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    But it's your unconscious mind that is making the decision. Why does a choice you make have to be a conscious choice in order for it to be a free choice? Can you explain?

    Who says that determinism and free will don't go together?

    Are you jumping on the Sarkus/Baldeee bandwagon, or do you have your own argument?
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  7. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Are you on the bandwagon too?
  8. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    A little aside. "Ancient universal callings that have echoed through the ages." (The sands of Time)

    I like the sound of that.....

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  9. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    I think you are a little obsessed about this Sarkus/Baldee bandwagon view of yours. I haven't read most of the posts and I have no idea if they really are purposing the supernatural or if that's just a barb that you throw at them?

    How is there free will if everything is determined (if you are speaking in absolutes)? I think in a practical way of using those terms that we certainly have free will as in I am free to have chicken or steak for dinner tonight.

    If you are talking about physics then if you had perfect information for every atom in the Universe then you could always predict where that atom would be in the next second.

    Regarding my comment up above about not having free will if your own subconscious made a decision before your consciousness made that same decision...that speaks for itself doesn't it? You aren't really exercising free will if you always do what your unconscious brain directs.

    Surely free will requires consciousness to have any meaning. Is there will without consciousness? I'm not implying that something else is determining the fate of the Universe.
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  10. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    A pianist trains his subconscious mind so that he can play the piano with out overly concentrating on every finger...
    Why does a determinist always ignore the reality of learning.

    Take a single casual chain ( I know you guys love the use of finite causal chains) like raining... rain falling from the sky.
    A human being decides he doesn't want to get his hair wet so he invents an umbrella after learning how to. He has just determined for himself whether he gets his hair wet or not.
    The sun is too hot so a human learns the benefit of shade... and so on...another casual chain neutralized... and it's an umbrella he invented as well...

    There are literally millions of examples of humans learning to determine causal chains, including creating a few of their own...
    Like sending a rocket to the moon... etc...
    This is not unconscious behavior but very conscious.
  11. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    I was involved in the very first chapter of this thread - what - a month or more ago?

    I was the first member to be gifted with "supernatural" as a label - more than a half-dozen times by opponents.

    I gave up hoping this discussion would proceed in good faith. There's little point in a discussion where the opponent ascribes their own ideas of my argument without justifying it. It seems that has not changed.

    It's a barb. It's designed to dismiss our argument as absurd - without bothering to justify.
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2019 at 4:35 AM
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  12. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    You appear to be missing the crux of the argument.
  13. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    Actually the weather presented him with a causal choice of getting his hair wet or not, and he will always choose in the direction of greatest satisfaction. Which yields the accompanying rewarding emotion of well-being, dry hair.
    A causal state, being solved by a causally functional mind, yielding a causally chronological resolution. Deterministic.

    Really it was a lucky day. It's possible that going out on a rainy day you may catch pneumonia and die, regardless if your hair is wet or dry..., but that's determinism for you.....

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    Last edited: Jul 12, 2019 at 4:40 AM
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  14. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    No. You are not getting the crux of the discussion.

    And it's got too much history to bring you up to speed.
  15. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    Most of these arguments sound like someone with an agenda trying to fit everyone else with a label. Up above (Quack) is referring to me an "you determinists" and "you guys always do this".

    I haven't (on purpose) been in this thread for long. It's not my thing to debate any subject for 100 pages. I just pointed out that the whole free will/determinism thing just depends on how you define the terms and what point you are trying to convey.

    Some may be using determinism for religious purposes? Others (me) just point out that classical physics is largely deterministic at the lowest order but we certainly have plenty of free will on a higher order but even that has it's limits (which I also pointed out).

    There's really nothing to argue with in those statements. Quack finds a way of course but it's so off point and nonsensical that I won't be addressing it or it will go on for another dozen pages.
  16. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

    Ah, okay, I see...

    So, if the universe is determined, the idea of free will becomes a moot point, because the idea is that all of my actions have been causally determined. (and I wouldn't be able to choose any other action)

    The second option is that the universe isn't determined, and every action that I take or don't take, determines my destiny.

    Maybe another choice could be a blend of both - I have free will and the universe is determined. This is what QQ's Co-determined universe thread is about, I believe?

    Who decides?
  17. Seattle Valued Senior Member


    We know that computers take their instructions via binary code. Everything they do it determined by 1 or 0. Yet the way we interact with them is approximating human languages. Which is it, binanary or high level languages.

    It depends on how strictly you define it. It's the same with this discussion. Classic physics is deterministic, quantum physics is probabilistic so make a choice.

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    On a day to day basis we choose to either go to work or to stay home. Some days we chose one and some days we chose the other.

    You may think you have 100% free will when you choose what color cloths you will buy when in a store but your preferences are already determined both by experience, culture, upbringing, etc.

    You could choose to buy a shirt that has flashy sequins glued all over it but any of your friends know that you won't buy that shirt. If your choices are limited enough by culture, past, etc then your free will is limited.

    If your unconscious makes some decisions and then a second later your consciousness makes that same decision, that wasn't really free will either.

    Yet, none of this implies that your life is mapped out by some predetermined "agent". It's just that much of what you do isn't freely chosen and if there was perfect knowledge/computing power we could predict your life if we ran out how every atom in the Universe would react for your lifetime.

    It's complicated.

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    Last edited: Jul 12, 2019 at 5:39 AM
  18. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    Either way the causal chain of rain on hair has been neutralized by the learned self-determination of the human.
  19. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    No, the inconvenience of getting your hair wet was the deterministic causal factor for your deterministic decision, which you freely made......because it was the logical thing to do. Cause <--> Effect
  20. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    Not quite, but close...
    A human being learns to co-determine his future actions within the determinstic universe. Therefore he becomes another determiner, the efficacy of which is determined by how well he learns to do so.
    Example: There are over 7 billion determiners learning to determine better, on this planet alone. Other wise referred to as self determination.
    The better he learns to co-determine the more genuine and numerous his choices become.
    Freewill is not an all or nothing issue.
  21. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    Exactly... well done...
  22. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    No, you couldn't.
    No, it would not.
    Quantum physics is deterministic, by the agreed definition posted and used here by Sarkus and Baldeee and so forth. "Cannot do other than it must". Nothing that obeys the laws of quantum physics can do other than it must.
    Everyone agreed to that months ago - myself explicitly.
    I think maybe you have overlooked some stuff - such as what a "specific outcome" is, or what you mean by a "given cause". Why not consider the example of the driver approaching a traffic light? It will help clarify matters for you.

    If that is really how quantum theorists have boxed themselves in philosophically, it's a good thing we aren't doing quantum physics here - that makes no sense in this context. The "entire outcome of anything", for example, appears to be meaningless here.

    There are no more certain "entire outcomes" in the universe than those produced by the laws of probability - the central mechanisms of determination in our deterministic universe are described by the laws of chance. They are inescapable.
    Yep. We all agreed to that, except maybe QQ.
    And my deterministic universe - the one I agreed with you to assume for this entire discussion - not only "grants" that word (language erosion, again - a symptom), it features a mechanism.
    Maybe you have overlooked some issues with these things you call "states". At several points I recall you insisting that some of them were illusions, for example - have you got past that yet?
    Pay especially careful attention to the word "prior" - you guys tend to lose track of that concept when dealing with real world examples.
    Not at all.
    When it's labeled a "premise", when it is argued from in a syllogism to reach a conclusion, and so forth, it's an assumption. (Doesn't matter what the conclusion is - could even, as so often with you guys, be a repetition of the assumption).

    That's not hard to distinguish. That's why I quoted all those examples from Sarkus and Baldeee and so forth, and pointed to the exact locations of the assumptions - so you guys could distinguish the assumptions for yourselves, with a little help.

    Here, take another whack at it:
    See that thing labeled "P1"? It's an assumption.
  23. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    Is this intended as a rebuttal?
    I only ask as you have suggested looking at an indeterministic principle that results in probability... in order to rebut the notion that probability is indeterministic?
    To be clear: QM, by almost everybody's understanding (except those who still adhere to "hidden variables", is inherently probabilisting.
    Or, to put it another way: indeterministic.
    Go look it up yourself, and you may find actual enlightenment on the matter rather than the gumph you are trying to peddle.

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