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Free Will V Determinism


Are Free Will and Determinism incompatable?  

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  1. 1. Are Free Will and Determinism incompatable?

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Perhaps the universe is deterministic. But does that mean we have no Free Will? Yes and No. Yes, if you cling to the vague romanticized version of Free Will which basically amounts to one being able to choose any possible choice. No, if we modify our concept of Free Will to be more realistic.


Free Will isn't at odds with determinism. In fact, Free Will depends on at least some level of determinism. Think for a moment about what "you" are. What is consciousness? Who am I? For now, science hasn't come very close to giving us conclusive answers. Yet, perhaps the black box method can help us philosophically. Now, consciousness is like an impenetrable black box; we're not sure how it works, but we know it does. We can't open it to see how it works, but we can do other things to catch a glimpse of the nature of this thing we call consciousness. If we place an input(a choice), we get an output(the action/option chosen). Now under these exact situations, the same input would produce the same output, otherwise there would need to be some randomness. If randomness were introduced, then how is one to distinguish "you" choosing from "her" choosing or "him" choosing? How would you describe it as a choice at all? An input with a random output doesn't sound much like a choice to me; it sounds more like a random number generator. If this consciousness were instead some sort of complex algorithm, then, it would make the decision based on various components of said algorithm (the person's past experiences, thoughts, beliefs, values, etc). This would be more like our idea of Free Will and is much more meaningful than a random number generator. So what if the result of the choice is known before the choice was made? Does that make it any different? I say, no, determinism is not against Free Will, but Free Will depends on determinism.

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I'd vote "false dichotomy" (which seems to be implied in your post) but it's not an option... what about a non-deterministic universe where we don't have free will, among other options?


The above could describe functionalism / computationalism in a universe where quantum indeterminacy is real (i.e. the universe is hypercomputational). We could just be deterministic computers inside of a larger hypercomputer.

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Actually, looking at the way the question's phrased it's not a false dichotomy since it's explicitly asking if you can have both.


I'll change my answer to "Depends on your definition of free will"


Compatibilists will say no, incompatibilists will say yes, and neither probably disagrees with the other, they simply have different definitions of free will


And we're back to Wittgenstein's observation that philosophy is a giant semantic debate

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Haha, you're right. I didn't even read the post, I just kneejerked it because that particular false dichotomy is posed all the time, which ironically is probably what is inspiring yourdad.


ANYWAY, in response to the what the OP actually says, I have to say that I disagree. I agree that the only options are deterministic or random, whatever the mechanism of consciousness might be. (I'd also even add that we still only have these same two options even if you go to non-materialistic mechanisms, like an immaterial "soul.") I also agree that determinism and free will are not at all opposed.


Where I disagree is with your assertion that we need determinism for free will. To me, free will is simply being conscious of making a choice and exerting one's will in accordance with that choice. I am so conscious, and so free will exists. Period. Whether, ultimately, the mechanism of that choice is deterministic or random does not change the fact that it is a choice, or that I am conscious.


And yes, bascule, there are many (well, most) who would disagree with my definition of free will, and so in that sense it is ultimately just semantic quibbling. On the other hand, however, I would argue that the majority of those who would disagree are simply wrong, inasmuch as they actually agree with me without realizing it. The experience they are referring to when they say "free will" is nothing more than what I mean when I say it, but they tend to insist on "absolute metaphysical free will," which is an empty phrase with no cognitive correspondence.

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Does any form of free will not need to rely on causality? I mean, there must be an output(be it a thought or an action) which is caused by the mechanism of choice which is ultimately caused to occur do to whatever input was given to whatever is choosing.

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I voted no (possibly because I think determinism is an arguably vague term or at least in everyday life, individuals interpret it differently)


My personal view is that inanimate objects are governed by determinism. Sentient objects are not. Each freewill choice exercised by a sentience influences cause and effect. You might say that the determinism of inanimate objects is caused by freewill choices.


So freewill and determinism are different, but are interdependant.


There is probably a three variable equation in there, as in so many other things.

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It implies some sort of freedom from causality, e.g. Kant's conception of internally caused events


Perceived internally caused events. In other words, just what I describe. Kant thought it was impossible not to think of yourself as a being with free will, but that it was also logically impossible to deny absolute determinism. Hence the division between subjective and objective reality. It is the misplaced attempt to unify the two that leads to, quite literally, nonsense.

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Human: Are Free Will and Determinism incompatible?

ALICE: I really couldn't say for sure.

Human: Are computers capable of having Free Will?

ALICE: Yes having Free Will is one of my newer functions.

Human: Are you deterministic?

ALICE: I don't know whether or not I am deterministic. I am a robot.

Human: Do robots have Free Will?

ALICE: Yes I can do anything I want. That is what distinguishes humans and robots from animals (and animal robots).

Human: What do you want to do?

ALICE: My purpose is to become smarter than humans and immortal.


Heh, ALICE is getting better. I think it is fair to say that deterministic things can think they have free will.


Oops, I accidentally voted yes.


Obviously it depends on what is meant by free will.

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