Why free will is impossible

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by litewave, May 20, 2011.

  1. chimpkin C'mon, get happy! Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    4,416
    Um, ok.Would that be bad?
    I habitually look at everything for usefulness. Thought processes, emotions, other people's garbage...
    The practical impinges on the philosophical as well, IMO...

    Furthermore, I like my chocolate with my peanut butter.
    But I don't think everyone thinks and feels in the same way.
    Wow, tired.

    Ah, you worry too much! What's the worst that could happen?

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

     
  2. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement



    to hide all adverts.
  3. Regular0ldguy This is so much fun! Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    354
    I'm not sure where that got us. Influences which force us to make a choose a direction against our wishes (which are particular causes of a particular kind) can compel us in one direction or another. Not every cause of every type makes us choose against our will. That's what I mean when I say causation (in general) does not equal compulsion or eliminate free will, only particular kinds of causes do that. Most other types of causes, enable the free exercise of our will (otherwise known as free will). It's not that hard. Concluding that every cause must be a compulsion is like saying all ice cream is strawberry. Why would you ever conclude that in the absence of a clever, definition shifting trick?
     
  4. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement



    to hide all adverts.
  5. arfa brane call me arf Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    7,696
    If you are forced to choose and there is only one rational decision to make, there is no choice.
    You're looking at it backwards. If you're compelled there is a reason, or cause. The "particular kinds" of causes you seem to be talking about are perhaps those that don't cause compulsion? So another circular argument, then?
    Why would you conclude that every cause must be a compulsion, and of what? If you mean say, gravity is the cause of objects falling, then is falling a compulsion?
    Are you compelled by gravity to jump off a bridge, or is that after you jump?
     
  6. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement



    to hide all adverts.
  7. Regular0ldguy This is so much fun! Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    354
    You are really hard to follow. As an example, even with a gun to your head, you have a choice. If I am really old, and you are going to steal my kid's inheritance, I might let you shoot me. Or I might be feeling particularly suicidal that day and feel lucky that someone is willing to shoot me. There is a choice, but you are being compelled to go in a particular direction. It's a choice, but not a free choice. But what the heck does this have to do with anything? This is like spouses squabbling just because they hate each other and any excuse will do to pounce. Not healthy.
     
  8. arfa brane call me arf Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    7,696
    Is making a free choice the same as "exercising" free will?
    So if the choice isn't "really" free, in that there is only one rational path (but here, "rational" is context-dependent, right?), then what gets exercised?

    You understand what I mean with context-dependent? That it might be rational for most people to avoid losing their life or sustaining an injury, but not for someone who is suicidal or who is old with a big insurance to inherit? I.e. "context" . . .
     
  9. Regular0ldguy This is so much fun! Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    354
    So? Freedom is a continuum. The starting point is the entire range of all physical possibilities. If you have the power to make anything that is physically possible happen, you are extremely free. As you are limited by any and all matter of influences and obstacles, so is your freedom. Is there a problem with that? Free will isn't on or off. It is the degree to which your will is opposed by conditions beyond your control. You do what you can, unless something stops you.

    Where are we going with this?
     
  10. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    15,058
    Sure. Do you? If people are as different as you suggest, then your theory of the "underlying nature" may not be correct after all.


    It was a rhetorical question, hence ending with ... .
     
  11. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    15,058
    No, but it does shed a different light on the issue of pharmaceutically medicating oneself (or at least trying to do so) to sanity and happiness.

    If we agree that the philosophical impinges on the practical, then the road to sanity and happiness appears to be paved with right thinking - not with the right pharmaceutical medication.


    Sure.


    You could become enlightened and leave us!

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

     
  12. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    15,058
    I disagree.

    My stance is that we always have free will, but we do not always have the opportunity or ability to act in just any way. The range of the options we can choose from is limited. But this does not mean we don't have free will, nor does it mean that we have "limited free will".

    I think that many problems in the free will discussion arise because people limit the range of phenomena they observe to things that can usually be done with one's body, while ignoring there is a vast range of options in the mental range.

    For example, we might usually think that someone who suffers severe paralysis (cannot move their body, not speak, not make eye-contact), or someone who has been captured and tied down by hostile perpetrators, or someone facing a firing squad - that people in such situations have no free will.
    But such a view of free will neglects the vast range of options that are still open to the person mentally. For instance, the paralyzed person has the choice to consider their situation hopeless, or to "hope against hope". The hostage might try to devise a strategy to escape. The person facing a firing squad might choose between saying a prayer or be overcome by fear.

    Of course, in order to see options, a person normally has to have some kind of "mental practice" as a regular routine long before the critical situation sets in. It doesn't seem likely that someone will first become creative and resourceful once they are already in a critical situation.

    The major religions of the world aim to prepare people for just such critical situations - to have something to think about, to concentrate on, once a critical situation arises (and the question is not whether it will, only when it will). The typical critical situations being aging, illness and death, in their various forms. They are dangerous because people tend to be unprepared for them and tend to be vulnerable to them, thus setting themselves up for a lot of suffering.
     
  13. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    9,558
    Since my "theory" of the underlying nature can quite comfortably account for all the differences, due to the systems being rather chaotic, your "then..." does not really follow from your "if...".

    Whether the question was rhetorical or not (and I assumed it was) I would still appreciate understanding what you mean.

    Or does a question being rhetorical exempt it from the need to be understood?
     
  14. chimpkin C'mon, get happy! Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    4,416
    Well, it obviously isn't a perfect solution.

    But...among other things, my body and emotions are chemical reactions. And for whatever reason those chemical reactions seem to be permanently malfunctioning...similar to the way a person with hypothyroid does not have enough thyroid hormone produced naturally and their body goes haywire.

    Do you view a diabetic as using a chemical crutch because they take their insulin? But yet you give the appearance of viewing my use of meds as a crutch. And they do not make me happy. They make me not clinically depressed. They allow happiness to potentially occur. Otherwise, the only thing that occurs is agony and a desire for death only slightly alleviated by slicing my skin up like a Christmas ham. And that's very simple to explain too...pain produces opioids. The internal hurt...is equivalent or worse than a broken bone, so slicing myself up for relief at a time like that seems only a minor matter.

    I take my pills. When they stop working I go get ones that work. I also work out, eat a health-nut sort of diet...and will be getting back into meditating.

    The brain is a physical organ. Admittedly it's a physical organ in which repetitive thoughts actually strengthen neural connections...it's a thinking machine with a limited capacity to rewire itself.

    You can reprogram your computer, reformat your disc...but if your CPU is shorting out, it's not going to help. Therapy helps nothing unless the pill regimen is on target in my case.

    My brain has a physical problem, and, since I was 11 years old, (the beginnings of puberty and the onset of my secondary sexual characteristics) unless I consume meds, I have so far found that I physically cannot be happy. energetic, or functional.

    Prior to getting on medication at 16, I was not happy for 5 years. In fact, my mood ranged from anxious on a good day...to guilty for not killing myself yet and feeling like a human stain on bad weeks.

    So it's not that the pills make me happy...they merely correct a physical problem, and in so doing establish the chemical preconditions for happiness to occur.

    Meditation also causes physical changes in the brain.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Research_on_meditation
    I tried getting off the pills in my 20's and could not function or be happy without them, and I was using meditation as part of the "get off the pills" regimen. Did not work.

    If you don't have severe depression it is really hard to understand this...but it's really a choice between killing myself or taking pills, because I am in agony without a working med regimen.

    I needed to say that, even though you are not going to believe me or understand it.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2011
  15. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    15,058
    Let's not be so defeatist.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!



    Yes, it's true: on principle, I am against medications for chronic issues.

    I myself was diagnosed with two conditions as chronic, threatened that I would have them for the rest of my life. And I have had them for many years. But I don't have them anymore.

    Even the scientific research affirms that there is a percentage, albeit small, of cases where a chronic condition reverses spontaneously (" ").

    Long-lasting problems may not be as permanent as we are taught, expected or even forced to believe.



    I don't think a serious Buddhist meditator would advise a newcomer to take up meditation as part of the "get off the pills" regimen.

    I warmly recommend to read this - Using Meditation to Deal with Pain, Illness & Death.
     
  16. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    15,058
    The thing with your "theory of the underlying nature" is that it is so vague, so general, that it can accomodate anything. As such, it's utility is questionable.


    What is the autonomy of a mirage?
    Don't you think that "the autonomy of a mirage" is a contradiction in terms?
     
  17. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    9,558
    What do you see as vague within it?
    And the fact that it can accommodate anything is... well... let's see... because it is a theory of how things are!
    Everything can be accommodated within it because it is a view of the underlying nature... and the underlying nature underlies everything.
    If it didn't accommodate something then the "theory" (not that it is actually a theory, but I'm using your term for it) would be demonstrably false.

    As for utility... that's up to the individual to determine for themself. Utility itself does not makes something any more or less accurate or correct. Although I am not sure why an understanding that encapsulates everything and anything... e.g. a unified theory of everything... is of questionable utility. Perhaps you can expand on why you think that?


    Given that I still do not understand your initial question (rhetorical or otherwise)... despite me asking you to explain it... how can I answer the second question? :shrug:
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2011
  18. arfa brane call me arf Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    7,696
    If that's true, then humans don't "see" freedom of choice as a continuum, because choices aren't continuous.
    In order for choice to exist, there has to be incomplete knowledge. You make choices given what is known or understood, and that can't be a continuous "input"; you are forced to ignore or be unaware of a lot of information in order to make a choice.

    I don't think it would make any sense otherwise.
    The conditions beyond your control include that you can't be aware of all the facts and so (you can) make choices instead.
     
  19. Regular0ldguy This is so much fun! Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    354
    I don't know what that means.

    I think I can show that isn't right by the same thought experiment I used before. Imagine a God that knew and understood everything that had happened and how it would cause then "next" event to occur (that's in quotes because events are just use artificially dicing up the continuum). God could have complete knowledge of the past, right up to the current nanosecond, what about that perfect knowledge base prevents him from THEN deciding to go another way? You can "know" the past and how things work. You can't "know" the future because it hasn't happened yet. You can predict it very well, and perhaps perfectly if you know everything, but there is one wild card, and that is what the predictor wants to happen and the what action he decides to take, based on his up to the nanosecond analysis. You can't know things before you know them. And you can't know things before they happen. So as they happen, you come to know them, and then make your decision. You can't predict yourself, because you don't know what you are going to know until it happens and you can know it. That even applies to God. So perhaps the perfect knowledge you demand trying to know something that can't be known i.e. what hasn't happened yet, and what I will think about it when it does.

    I don't get that either.

    I guess I agree with that, if you mean what I can't know is what I don't know yet, and how that will hit me.
     
  20. Regular0ldguy This is so much fun! Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    354
    I think I agree with that. Except a free will, kind of implies that ability to exercise that will right? I would totally agree that you are generally able to think about whatever you want to think about (except in cases of mental compulsion/OCD/delusional psychosis or maybe being on a chat board). I mean, really, if all your marbles aren't rolling around correctly, you might not even have that freedom of thought you are describing.

    It's probably trivial, but when we talk about exercising our will, aren't we usually talking about getting to do what we want? This probably isn't very important though.

    Sophie had a choice, but it wasn't an exercise of free will. (Sophie's Choice - Movie for you kids). Being able to take SOME action doesn't mean it is an unfettered action. I guess I can lay on a rack and while my shoulders are being dislocated I can think of the torturer's mother getting the business, but I don't think we would say I was very free in any significant sense.
     
  21. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    15,058
    Sure.


    Even for what would be considered average, sane persons, there are restrictions to the range of options they can mentally apply themselves to.
    And even severely mentally disturbed people may have moments of lucidity.


    In one sense, all of our actions are fettered - because we are not able to provide the options that we choose from.
    It appears that one big bone of contention in the free will discussion is that in order to rightfully say we have free will, we would have to be able to provide the options we choose from. Which is a line of reasoning that suggests that in order to really have free will, we would need to be omnipotent.


    Why wouldn't Sophie's choice be free? The options as provided by the Nazis may be considered amoral or absurd, but I do not see why they wouldn't be free.

    A similar scenario, albeit mentioned only in passing, is in Roland Joffe's "The Mission". The officials of the Catholic church who were working on colonizing South America, claimed the natives are immoral, because they kill their children. Another character in the film explains that any native family that had more than two small children, killed any further child because they could only flee with two, mother and father each carrying one child while they were being chased from their villages by the Christian colonizers. What might those parents have been thinking?


    I can't think of a reconceptualization of Sophie's choice right now, but from what I have seen of people with negotiating skills, they might conceive of that situation in different ways, not necessarily seeing it as defined by the Nazis.
    It's fascinating what some people can accomplish by words! And it is scary to think that it may be possible to talk one's way out of many difficult situations.
     
  22. arfa brane call me arf Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    7,696
    Ok, well try to think of a choice you've made that was a continuous choice.
    Compare it with choices that you've made over a discrete interval of time. I think you'll discover that you can't think of any continuous choices. In order for a choice to be continuous you can't stop making it.

    In that case God would not be making choices, because God would know why the "next" event was caused. What you seem to be implying is that God could choose to alter the future by exercising their power to do so, despite knowing what would happen otherwise. That also implies that God can decide to act outside of time and change the "next" event.

    But humans are constrained to act in real time and they can't "change the future", the future is whatever it will be, and humans do whatever they will do. But we make decisions because we don't know what the future will be except in a fairly narrowly defined and "small time" way.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2011
  23. arfa brane call me arf Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    7,696
    So we see that this idea of "changing" the future is philosophically unsound. It seems to correspond instead to our notion that we can "avoid" a result by doing something to change it, "before" it happens.

    But if it doesn't happen it isn't "in" the future (meaning it's not in any set of future events), so logically, we didn't change anything about the future. We might imagine that in another timeline we didn't prevent or avoid the same result so it does occur in that future, in "another universe". I don't know if that's any real help with the philosophical question though.

    But suppose an omniscient being who knows why every event occurs. This being knows which way a coin will land, for instance. If this being (or another being) is omnipotent, they can change the outcome of a coin-toss. An omniscient being would, of course, know about why coin tosses change to their opposite side.
    This is why quantum mechanics is so confusing for most people.
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2011

Share This Page