Do people have free will?

Discussions relating to conciousness, spirituality, and the great dilemma between materialism and dualism

Do people have free will?

Postby Brandon Norgaard on Sat Jan 02, 2010 11:57 pm

Do people have libertarian free will? Do they have free will based on any other understanding of the term? Does any animal species? How did you come to this conclusion?
User avatar
Brandon Norgaard
Site Admin
 
Posts: 261
Joined: Mon Aug 31, 2009 3:54 pm
Location: Folsom, CA

Re: Do people have free will?

Postby anthony6 on Mon Jan 04, 2010 6:56 pm

People have free will. animals, birds etc have to operate within a set parameter. An example of this is the beaver will build its home the very same way no matter which country they are in. A oriele builds its unique nest the same no matter which country it lives in.
Humans were given free will but the rejected this by placing laws to control others and therefore judge them. There is little free will when you can't own a dog without a license.
The North American Indians lived in harmony together for 24,000 years with no goverment but just each tribe had a chief to regulate the possible situations within some tribes.
Yes we have free will but mankind has rejected it.
Wayne
anthony6
 
Posts: 4
Joined: Fri Jan 01, 2010 12:17 pm

Re: Do people have free will?

Postby Dignityinfatigue on Mon Jan 04, 2010 7:14 pm

I've written a blog about this topic. Feel free to check it out.

dignityinfatigue.blogspot.com
Dignityinfatigue
 

Re: Do people have free will?

Postby Brandon Norgaard on Mon Jan 04, 2010 10:18 pm

Thanks anthony6 and DignityinFatigue for your posts. I'm sorry but I don't have time to read your website today, but I think I should have time tomorrow.

I just wanted to address Wayne's post. There are different conceptions of the term "free will". This can sometime mean complex unpredictability within a deterministic system. This can also mean an in-deterministic system where a free willed entity makes choices that are not determined by any prior actions or states of being and these free choices determine the future state.

We see examples of the first conception all the time. You mentioned a beaver building a dam or an oriole building a nest. It seems to me that these are examples of complex and unpredictable but deterministic operations. Animals are made of physical matter and physical matter is governed by the laws of nature, right? So though the exact way that they build the dam or nest is unpredictable, if one were to have perfect knowledge of the inner workings of the animal's neurobiology and the environment in which they live, then perhaps they would be able to predict exactly how the animal will act.

Or so it would seem. From my own personal experience, I have concluded that I, and by extension all other people, have the second conception of free will, which can be called libertarian free will. This is from my own unmistakable experience of making decisions that are not determined by prior actions. Most of the time, my actions are determined by the workings of my brain and by my experiences, but not always. Now, I do have an answer as to whether this can be extended to animals, but this is a more complex answer. I will say for now that the question of animal libertarian free will is less certain for me than the fact that I have free will. It is a more difficult question to answer whether animals have this as well and I have a separate topic for this under "Advanced Concepts". The topic is called "What types of beings have phenomenal consciousness", though we can also use this topic to discuss what types of beings have libertarian free will.

Here is the link to the other topic: http://enlightenedworldview.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=36
User avatar
Brandon Norgaard
Site Admin
 
Posts: 261
Joined: Mon Aug 31, 2009 3:54 pm
Location: Folsom, CA

Re: Do people have free will?

Postby Shane on Tue Jan 15, 2013 2:02 pm

Philosophically this is a rather more complex subject than I'd ever given thought to. One thing I've never adhered to is that ones life is completely predetermined. Fundamentally there seems little point to this. There would be no need for it to occur if it was completely known beforehand.

One great frustration I have within society is the restrictions placed on individuals within society due to religious beliefs. Body freedom is one such example. Moreover, given the general decay of religion in the wider community, many laws are based on principals that people don't necessarily adhere to anymore. In that sense freedom of choice is somewhat hampered, but not entirely restricted as like Steve Gough, people can choice to suffer the consequences of exercising their birthright but in do doing, breaking the law.
Shane
 
Posts: 8
Joined: Sat Jan 12, 2013 11:29 pm

Re: Do people have free will?

Postby Brandon Norgaard on Wed Jan 16, 2013 12:21 am

Shane wrote:One great frustration I have within society is the restrictions placed on individuals within society due to religious beliefs. Body freedom is one such example. Moreover, given the general decay of religion in the wider community, many laws are based on principals that people don't necessarily adhere to anymore. In that sense freedom of choice is somewhat hampered, but not entirely restricted as like Steve Gough, people can choice to suffer the consequences of exercising their birthright but in do doing, breaking the law.

I don't quite get your line of reasoning here. You started saying that you think some form of free will makes sense, and then you got into religious tradition and laws. Would you care to elaborate?
User avatar
Brandon Norgaard
Site Admin
 
Posts: 261
Joined: Mon Aug 31, 2009 3:54 pm
Location: Folsom, CA

Re: Do people have free will?

Postby Shane on Wed Jan 16, 2013 3:31 am

Clarifying my earlier post;

Fundamentally I don't believe life is predetermined as that would seem to make it pointless.

The thrust of my second point was the frustration at the artificial constraints society puts on people via laws, many of which when you examine them, are based on religious taboos.

By way of example. The vast majority of indigenous people wore little or no clothing as the climatic conditions determined. What's more there was no gender discrimination where toplessness was concerned.
Enter Europeans, their missionaries, religion and laws and this sensible indigenous approach to attire is deemed shameful, sinful and discouraged. In all but a handful of countries body freedom is illegal.

People may determine for themselves to break those laws, but they must suffer the legal consequences. To my mind if you're inclined to look to nature for natural laws, it's evident humans are breaking one of the most fundamental of them insomuch as we are the only species that clothes themselves.
Given the current state of society I'm not suggesting we outlaw clothes or attempt to all conduct ourself nude. I am however saying it shouldn't be illegal to be unclothed.

The rest of my ideas regarding this belong in a different topic. However by way of a very brief explanation I think some of the environmental problems we face today have come about because we have utterly lost touch with nature to the point of isolating ourselves from it, and rarely if ever communing with nature as was so commonplace prior to the late 20th century.
Shane
 
Posts: 8
Joined: Sat Jan 12, 2013 11:29 pm

Re: Do people have free will?

Postby Brandon Norgaard on Thu Jan 17, 2013 8:36 pm

Shane wrote:The thrust of my second point was the frustration at the artificial constraints society puts on people via laws, many of which when you examine them, are based on religious taboos.

By way of example. The vast majority of indigenous people wore little or no clothing as the climatic conditions determined. What's more there was no gender discrimination where toplessness was concerned.
Enter Europeans, their missionaries, religion and laws and this sensible indigenous approach to attire is deemed shameful, sinful and discouraged. In all but a handful of countries body freedom is illegal.

I doubt there was ever a society that didn't have gender discrimination. Yeah, I can see that we have freedom to use our bodies as we wish.

Shane wrote:People may determine for themselves to break those laws, but they must suffer the legal consequences. To my mind if you're inclined to look to nature for natural laws, it's evident humans are breaking one of the most fundamental of them insomuch as we are the only species that clothes themselves.
Given the current state of society I'm not suggesting we outlaw clothes or attempt to all conduct ourself nude. I am however saying it shouldn't be illegal to be unclothed.

Well, there are reasons I can see why it is illegal to be naked in public, but I don't think this thread is good for that. I created a few topics in the Ethics and Morality section of the forum. None of the topics is specific to this question, but I think it would be interesting to discuss laws and society. I could even create one or more new topics other than those that are already there if you think it would be a good idea.

Shane wrote:The rest of my ideas regarding this belong in a different topic. However by way of a very brief explanation I think some of the environmental problems we face today have come about because we have utterly lost touch with nature to the point of isolating ourselves from it, and rarely if ever communing with nature as was so commonplace prior to the late 20th century.

Also I don't have any topics created for the environment. I could create a topic in the Ethics and Morality section or The Universe. Actually, I was thinking maybe I could create an entirely different website just for discuss political and economic theories.

I don't know enough about the topic to take the lead on such debates, but I am learning. I did recently start a political discussion group, for in person meetings, in the city where I live. It is the Sacramento Politics and Philosophy Group. I created this group because I didn't see one that existed already. I don't know where you live but I'm guessing maybe a 1% chance you live nearby. I just wanted to mention that as an example of how I am going about trying to learn more about political theory because this ties in to the question of how we can debate laws within this website. Right now this website isn't really oriented towards that kind of discussion.
User avatar
Brandon Norgaard
Site Admin
 
Posts: 261
Joined: Mon Aug 31, 2009 3:54 pm
Location: Folsom, CA

Re: Do people have free will?

Postby Shane on Thu Jan 17, 2013 10:10 pm

It's difficult to predict on such a site what topics might come up. Whenever you start talking about the nature of things, you're bound to cross many boundaries, not to mention philosophies.

I don't have a particular agenda so separate topics probably aren't necessary. There are also numerous discussions elsewhere that touch on this particular issue. For as many people posting, there are as many points of view, and what's most obvious is that there is little consensus as it touches upon people's personal value systems.

As it stands there's already more material on this site than I could possibly read or digest, let alone discuss. I'm happy to pick at the things I have some view to express that might be of interest to others :)
Shane
 
Posts: 8
Joined: Sat Jan 12, 2013 11:29 pm

Re: Do people have free will?

Postby MikeM on Sun Jun 09, 2013 6:47 pm

Hi Brandon, I figured I'd give my take on free will, because I think it's the most fundamental concept in philosophy. Before you make your mind up on this question, I don't think you can really begin to consider other questions since they're all built on the assumption of free will.

I guess I'll start by saying that I still haven't decided what I believe on this subject, myself. It's hard to wrap my mind around, but I'll go into what both sides of the argument in my head go like for free will (the pro-free will and anti-free will sides). I'm not religious or spiritual, so I should clarify that I begin from the assumption that humans don't have 'souls' or anything like that (I'm open to the idea, but so far I've yet to hear an argument that was very convincing to me). I'll start with my reasons for thinking free will doesn't exist, then why I think free will might exist, and end with why I still can't decide.

Why I don't think free will exists:

Everything I've seen suggests that humans, like all animals, are nothing more than biological computers. You can think of our bodies (including the brain) as our hardware, and our life experiences and environmental upbringing as our software. Something happens to us. Our brain processes it, our body reacts to it. Input -> Output. Mind and mood-altering drugs are a prime example of this. For example, I have acute anxiety and am prone to panic attacks if I go off my medication. I can remember when I first had them, before I got on medication, that I would be having a panic attack, my heart would race, I would sweat, and my whole body would be telling me that I was about to die. In reality, there was nothing wrong with me and absolutely no reason to think I was about to die - and I KNEW there was no danger, but even if I told myself that and knew that it wasn't real, my body wouldn't stop. Not until I started taking prescription tranquilizers (which I guess you could compare to fixing a software glitch in my body). Of course, I don't need to get into all the other ways drugs can affect our minds and bodies, and the 'choices' we make.

Now, someone could argue that sure, mental problems and drugs can make it harder for your free will to shine through, but you still have free will buried under that. I'm not so sure about that. Consider the example of a kid in a candy store who is considering stealing a candy bar: Does he have free will, a choice, to steal that candy bar or not to steal it? At that particular instant, I don't think he does. He consults his programming (does he think stealing is wrong?) and his surroundings (is anybody looking?), and based on those variables, makes a decision. Maybe a kid who grew up thinking stealing is fine would steal it, but only if there wasn't a security guard at the door. Maybe a kid who grew up thinking stealing is wrong would never steal it, regardless of whether there was a guard at the door or not. But if you could rewind time a thousand times to the instant that kid makes his decision, would he ever make a different decision? I don't think he would. He is ALWAYS going to decide to steal the candy bar or ALWAYS going to decide not to steal the candy bar, and the only way to change that is to change the variables in the situation (his brain chemistry, the environment around him i.e. security guards, his upbringing). When it comes down to it, those are all things that are outside of his control.

I've heard the argument that new research in the field of quantum mechanics proves that at the quantum level, true randomness does exist (via the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncertainty_principle), but at any sort of macro level everything falls right back into the classical model of physics, so I find that argument for free will not very convincing, considering the complexity of the human brain and body.

Why I think free will might exist:

I know it's a logical fallacy to make the argument that "because everyone thinks something is true, it must be true", but free will takes this to the extreme. Virtually ALL of us both act like free will exists, and expect others to act like free will exists as well. We get angry when people do something we consider immoral or rude. We hold them accountable for it, we don't just think "Well, free will doesn't exist so it can't be helped."

And if we DID think like that, I think a lot of people would agree that society would fall apart. In my everyday life, I live like free will exists, and I try to be good to other people, and I get upset if other people aren't good to me. If I really believed that free will didn't exist, why would I even bother with these things?

There's a danger here of getting into the fallacy of appeal to consequences - "Free will must exist because it would really, really suck if it didn't", but I think this goes deeper than that. Just by acknowledging that IF we all acted like free will didn't exist things would be bad, I'm implicitly using the language of free will by assuming that we have a choice.

If free will doesn't exist, then the desire for it to be real is so strong that I, and almost everyone else in the world, am willing to live a lie and act like it is real. But in making that choice, are we proving that free will does exist, or is it just a coping mechanism to avoid dealing with a very unpleasant reality? I honestly still can't make up my mind.
MikeM
 
Posts: 1
Joined: Sun Jun 09, 2013 4:38 pm

Next

Return to The Nature of the Self

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

Enlightened Worldview Forum

cron