A Few Possible Solutions to Free Will-Determinism

TheMidnight12AM

The Midnight
Registered Senior Member
Note: I decided to write this in response to the Free Will/Determinism post earlier in this forum, but the explanations would be too large for a single reply, so I decided to begin a new thread.

Free will is an ambiguous concept in itself. To actually capture the essence of free will, we must be able to define it. Determinism is easy to define--it's simply the notion that the universe is defined by a set of rules and initial conditions, and by knowing these figures we can theoretically calculate the outcome and the state of the system at any time during its existence. Basically, determinism states that everything is predictable, knowable, and that we are powerless to change it, since we are part of the system.

The definition of free will is harder to word specifically. Free will can exist in degrees, unlike determinism (unless one states that only certain parts of a system are determined, in which case one must provide an explanation as to why the other parts are random or free). Total free will would be omnipotence, or what God is capable of doing. If we had total free will, we could exist in any mode we desired, cast magic spells, turn TV characters into reality with a single thought, create the perfect man and woman, give ourselves the power of flight, etc. Clearly, this is not the case. We do not have total free will.

The next degree of free will is the ability to choose between a variety of options limited by the laws of the system. For example, we can choose to eat bacon or sausage for breakfast. However, we cannot choose to defy the law of gravity and propel our bodies into orbit with our thoughts. We can choose a red shirt or a green shirt. We can choose good or evil, or in some cases a gray area between them. This sort of free will we seem to possess.

The primary question is, then, is the free will we seem to possess truly free will, or merely an illusion created by determinism? One could argue this stance, especially from a completely materialistic perspective. Our thoughts are regulated by the levels of neurotransmitters in our brain, which is regulated by the neurological structure of the cells, which is defined by DNA, which was inherited from our parents. Since there is no randomness, we could theoretically calculate our entire stream of consciousness from birth to death and find physical causes for all of it. If this be the case, then there is indeed no free will.

However, we don't have total proof of determinism. One major problem for absolute determinism is it assumes that the physical world is all that exists, that it is perfectly predictable with no randomness, and that human logic and mathematics can encompass all its operations in some theoretical perfection.

Firstly, what if there is an existence beyond the physical? We could never sense it with our five senses or all of our instruments, since we are limited to three (or four or ten, depending on your theory of physics) dimensions. Our instruments are limited to this as well. If there is a fifth dimension of existence, perhaps another spatial dimension, a secondary stream of time, or better yet, a spiritual existence, then that introduces an entirely new element to the system of the universe. The universe may not be a closed system after all. If, for example, our neural structures are based on the existence of a "soul" that resides in the fifth dimension, then it could inject an unpredictable monkey wrench into the workings of the physical universe by introducing a sentient element that is capable of making choices that don't obey all chemical laws. This doesn't even take into account the possible effects of the spiritual onto the physical--for example, independent spiritual beings, or a supreme being capable of intervening in the physical universe.

Take, for example, a two dimensional universe on a piece of paper. A line is defined by y=x, a simple, straight infinite line. Now introduce a third dimension, where you, a giant human, exist. You can put your finger on the piece of paper and turn the piece of paper, erase the line and draw a loop or a circle, or add a parallel line. An observer in the 2-D plane would not be able to perceive anything outside that plane, but you, being 3-D, can not only see the changes but cause them as well. A 2-D being would only be able to try and calculate the reasons these changes were occurring, and would not be able to figure it out, since all he knows is y=x. He would have to die trying to figure it out or come up with a theory of free will.

This sounds a bit far-fetched, especially to the naturalist, but there is no proving that the physical is all that exists. A naturalist will claim that since we cannot see or experience it, its existence does not matter anyway. This is closed-minded and illogical, since it is folly to think our finite, feeble senses can detect everything that exists. Secondly, if the spiritual existence does affect the physical, then it does matter.

We have no proof that the universe is completely predictable. Barring all other existences or dimensions, a gaping hole in determinism is quantum mechanics. This theory, proven to sufficiency almost as much as relativity (if not equally), is based partially on the randomness of particles and space at the subatomic level. If this is the case, then this randomness may be observable at larger levels as well (considering the trillions of random intercations occurring at the quantum level), as in water flows, cell growth and human decisions.

If even a small of randomness is introduced into the system, the ability to predict it mathematically based on initial conditions and known rules becomes far more approximate. The ability to calculate the orbit of a planet still exists, but the ability to predict a human's response to a stimulus is much harder. A tornado's path, even given all of the variables in the system and an infinitely powerful computer to crunch the numbers, may still be random. The stock market is a fine example. The best model for the stock market over time is--random chance. Interesting enough, the stock market is entirely a human creation, and we still can't predict it.

A few other notes: genetics determines tendencies, not final outcomes. A person with a genetic propensity for obesity may never see ten pounds overweight if he or she eats correctly. A person with genes that predict homosexuality may never sleep with a man. The human mind is far more complex than a combination of three billion base pairs, and predicting it is like predicting the weather on Jupiter.

This line of reasoning leads me to believe a large degree of free will exists in our system, and is exhibited by creatures able to exercise it--humans, animals, plants, and probably even cells. All of life has the ability to move where it likes, eat what it likes, and live where it likes. The probability factor of physical law increases the ability to choose randomly between two options.
 
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. If we had total free will, we could exist in any mode we desired, cast magic spells, turn TV characters into reality with a single thought, create the perfect man and woman, give ourselves the power of flight, etc. Clearly, this is not the case. We do not have total free will.

I think that describes the extent to which we can act on free will, not the extent to which we have free will. A robot with near absolute power has no free will, yet a person locked in a cell and unable to act in any meaningful way does.

One major problem for absolute determinism is it assumes that the physical world is all that exists...
Does it? Couldn't we have a deterministic system that works on a supernatural plane?

A few other notes: genetics determines tendencies, not final outcomes. A person with a genetic propensity for obesity may never see ten pounds overweight if he or she eats correctly.

What causes them to eat correctly? Environment and psychology(which is essentially chemistry) are just as deterministic as genetics.

This line of reasoning leads me to believe a large degree of free will exists in our system, and is exhibited by creatures able to exercise it--humans, animals, plants, and probably even cells.

But randomness is not free will. If my actions are the result by a quantum set of dice I have no more free will than if my actions were the result of deteministic processes. A universe does not enable freewill just because it is not deterministic.

All of life has the ability to move where it likes, eat what it likes, and live where it likes. The probability factor of physical law increases the ability to choose randomly between two options.

Except trees. They're rooted.
 
Free will and determinism CANNOT exist simultaneously(sp). Free will defys the whole idea of determinism, its not that hard of an idea to grasp. If free will exitsts then the universe is not predictable. ITs that SIMPLE
 
TheHeretic said:
Free will and determinism CANNOT exist simultaneously(sp). Free will defys the whole idea of determinism, its not that hard of an idea to grasp. If free will exitsts then the universe is not predictable. ITs that SIMPLE


Free will is actually deterministic in that free will must obey the laws of physics, which are predetermined. For example, a sonnet--a sonnet has very strict patterns, rhyme schemes, and meter, but the poet can insert any words he or she likes from the English language into that pattern, giving a countless number of possible sonnets. It is the same with free will and determinism.
 
TheMidnight12AM said:
Free will is actually deterministic in that free will must obey the laws of physics, which are predetermined. For example, a sonnet--a sonnet has very strict patterns, rhyme schemes, and meter, but the poet can insert any words he or she likes from the English language into that pattern, giving a countless number of possible sonnets. It is the same with free will and determinism.
You give an example of restriction of freedom, not free will; there is a distinction to be made between the two. That's not deterministic at all. Determinism posits that nothing is random and everything is theoretically predictable. Choice, creativity, will, and quantum mechanics are all very random and unpredictable. Determinism is thus bogus.
 
"Free will is actually deterministic in that free will must obey the laws of physics, which are predetermined" Are you stupid? That makes no sense. you said that free will deterministic because physics are predetermined? The laws of physics are not neccessarily predetermined, so your reasoning is all wrong. I will say it again, if the universe is DETERMINISTIC then FREE WILL does NOT exist. DETERMINISM is based on the whole idea that everything is predictable therefore you have NO FREE WILL. Its not that hard a concept to grasp.
 
Let's not get personal here.

The point is you can't suddenly take off from the ground just because you want to. Your free will is restricted in that sense, and I can predict that you will never be able to fly on your own power. In that sense, I can predict certain things can and will never happen, which is partially deterministic. By the same token, I cannot predict what you will be thinking ten minutes from now. That's free will.
 
I think we're misunderstanding predictability... "Free Will" as you call it, and as defined by "creativity, choice, expression"... whatever else you want to put in there, is predictable. It may be that we don't have formulae for it - it's too complex in general. I don't think predictability de facto is the issue. Instead, the idea is that whatever we do is a product of our experience up to that moment, and is hence theoretically predictable. It's not absurd to suppose that a calculus of a single person's potential actions under certain stimuli could be derived, and that person's actions predicted, is it? I'm not saying in the next year or two - I'm talking millions... billions of years. If that's the case, then it's theoretically possible to do the same thing with anyone. No m,atter how long it might take, the point is, our actions are a product of our experience. I think we're getting caught up in practicalities here, when the issue goes far beyond current human capabilities.
 
It's an interesting way to look at it, TheMidnight12AM. Nice to see you back, regardless.

Personally, I like the parts about dimensions that we cannot and may not ever be able to see. This, at least, holds my interest. I think Determinism and Free Will are beyond my comprehension at this point in time. I've never really liked philosophy as a concept. Good post, though. :)
 
Without having read the thread so far, but with a lot of free will vs. determinism discussion under my belt, I can say:


The whole problem, and solution, with free will is
that nobody can prove to you
that you have free will.

That's the whole point of free will.
 
It seems to me that the definition of will relates to the future, which (with regards to human behaviour) is unknown: someone decides what they will do, however when that moment becomes present, and the decision is made, then the result of that action becomes determined (or known). For example someone may decide that they will drop an apple, to see what happens. It may be predicted that the apple will fall to the floor, but it is not until that moment is reached that the result is known: an arrow may fly in and destroy the apple before it reaches the floor; and so it would seem that it is only from the moment of will that determinism can be reached; it is will that concludes what may be determined (in my opinion).
 
Determinism says that everything in the Universe is predetermined. The basic principle is causality. Everything follows cause and effect, there is a law governing every event. So once all the parameters are given, and all the laws are known, the future can be predicted (in principle. In practice, this is probably impossible).

You are just a lot of chemicals, which again are lots of particles, which obey the laws of physics (no physics as we know it, but physics as it actually is). So your actions are predetermined.

If you refer to the my earlier posts in the other thread, you'll see that I am of the opinion that although this universe is deterministic, we still have free will. My explanation is given there.
 
perplexity said:
... nobody can prove to you
that you have free will.
That's the whole point of free will.

That's what all the girls say.

No responsibility!

Yes, my explanation goes both ways. Anything can be abused.

I'm only saying that if it were possible to prove to a person that she has free will, then this would prove that she does not have free will.

Free will has to be realized for oneself, or it doesn't exist.

As long as we posit an instance that gives us free will, this long we do not actually have free will.
 
you COULD right here right now, take up your cloak, walz outa your abode leaving door open, and do cart wheels down the street whilst singing 'I'm foreverblowwwin bubb-les''' and then march thru woods and streams to te sea an crash into the surf laughing till your death/////you COULD

but WOULD you/
 
perplexity said:
What matters is that you have a choice.

It is easy enough to postulate that every action is determined by the circumstance,
but to continue to deny the responsibility of the choice you then need also to show that the perception of the circumstance is not a matter of choice.

But to acknowledge that there exists choice, implies that there must be a self, an agent who is the instance to perceive this choice, can make decisions and carry them out, and this instance also is the carrier of responsibility.

Free will and responsibility are mutually inclusive, there cannot be one without the other.

My problem is, of course, the self, the agent. Without this instance, responsibility is a nonsensical concept.
 
water said:
But to acknowledge that there exists choice, implies that there must be a self, an agent who is the instance to perceive this choice, can make decisions and carry them out, and this instance also is the carrier of responsibility.

Free will and responsibility are mutually inclusive, there cannot be one without the other.

My problem is, of course, the self, the agent. Without this instance, responsibility is a nonsensical concept.
i would ay the 'agent' is the unique consciousness and form
 

There are those who think that life has nothing left to chance,
A host of holy horrors to direct our aimless dance.

A planet of playthings,
We dance on the strings
Of powers we cannot perceive
"The stars aren't aligned,
Or the gods are malign..."
Blame is better to give than receive.

You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice.
If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.
You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill;
I will choose a path that's clear
I will choose freewill.

There are those who think that they were dealt a losing hand,
The cards were stacked against them; they weren't born in Lotusland.

All preordained
A prisoner in chains
A victim of venomous fate.
Kicked in the face,
You can't pray for a place
In heaven's unearthly estate.

Each of us
A cell of awareness
Imperfect and incomplete.
Genetic blends
With uncertain ends
On a fortune hunt that's far too fleet.


-Neil Peart
 
perplexity said:
Don't worry.

I have had lots of practice at treating women as non entities.

If you wish to pursue this line of argument, then you better go fuck yourself.
Because I'm not going to listen to this shit.
 
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