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Free Will?


NIN
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Hi. I'm new to these forums, and I just joined because I have a lot of curiosity, and I'm not exactly the best scientist in the world, so go easy on me :)

 

I've a bit of a "theory" (I'm sure I'm not the first...) about free will, and why I doubt it's existence. I'd like to see if I'm right, and if not, what part of my theory I went wrong in.

 

Here's the idea. First off, nothing is really random, correct? Like, if you hit a pool ball on a pool table from X angle with Y amount of force, you would be able to calculate EXACTLY where it would end up. Right? Thus making it not random?

 

Now, if nothing is random in that sense, wouldn't it be the same inside the brain on a very small scale? Such as chemicals mixing and energy flowing, absent of any random things happening. If that is correct, exactly where does the free will take place?

 

Again, I'm no rocket scientist, so I'm sure that I'm either incorrect, or this is well-known knowledge, but I would like some feedback. Thanks in advance.

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Really? Interesting. Randomness doesn't make sense to me at all. I know nothing about quantum mechanics. Could you perhaps describe some of this to me in a dumbed-down sense, or give me a link to a site that could help me understand this a little better?

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If you're walking along the street, and a gust of cooler wind hits you in the face, it's because the weather pattern, something seemingly random, caused the wind to blow that way. If the temperature were slightly different, or if you were among taller buildings, or were simply walking the opposite direction, the wind may not hit you the same way.

 

But you still have the free will to decide whether to put your jacket on or not. And the friend walking right next to you may decide to do the same as you, or not, or he may suddenly run into a coffee shop. I don't think free will and randomness are necessarily linked.

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There is randomness in quantum mechanics, and there is also "statistical determinism" on larger scales. For example, there is a finite probability that all the electrons in the floor beneath your feet will simultaneously decide to be elsewhere in the universe, and you'll fall right through. However, this is so ridiculously unlikely that we can basically say with certainty that that won't ever happen to anyone anywhere, and deterministic laws of physics work just fine. Everything is affected by some degree of randomness, but different degrees. Whether there is a significant amount of randomness in the workings of the brain isn't entirely clear.

 

But more fundamentally, you have to ask yourself, what is free will? Can it exist in a deterministic universe? Can it exist in a random one? Those are your two options (you either have a reason for going a particular way, or you don't), and upon reflection most people don't see either one as compatible with their own notions of "free will," so in a certain sense "free will" is a meaningless concept. Personally, I don't think of it that way. To me, free will is just will. I weigh options, I make a choice, and I exert my will in accordance with that choice. Whether that choice was predetermined or random doesn't really seem to matter.

 

If you're walking along the street' date=' and a gust of cooler wind hits you in the face, it's because the weather pattern, something seemingly random, caused the wind to blow that way. If the temperature were slightly different, or if you were among taller buildings, or were simply walking the opposite direction, the wind may not hit you the same way.

 

But you still have the free will to decide whether to put your jacket on or not. And the friend walking right next to you may decide to do the same as you, or not, or he may suddenly run into a coffee shop. I don't think free will and randomness are necessarily linked.[/quote']

 

This example doesn't really get to the fundamentals of the problem, though. Yes, weather seems random, and it's so complex as to be impossible to completely predict. But is it truly random? Or is it just part of an extremely complex machine that includes the whole universe? And you with your jacket: yes, you're deciding whether to put it on, but why or why not? Could your brain, if confronted with this exact situation, have made either decision? If yes, then your free will is no different than flipping a coin (or, you know, something actually random). If no, then it's no different than clockwork.

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Yes, I've also come to the conclusion that "free will" is a combination of randomness (or pseudo-randomness, chaos, etc) and determinism. Even if you decide that you have a soul separate from the laws of this physical world, I don't see any way around this conclusion, because the soul would then be random (not subject to laws), deterministic (determined by laws), or a combination thereof.

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There is randomness in quantum mechanics, and there is also "statistical determinism" on larger scales. For example, there is a finite probability that all the electrons in the floor beneath your feet will simultaneously decide to be elsewhere in the universe, and you'll fall right through. However, this is so ridiculously unlikely that we can basically say with certainty that that won't ever happen to anyone anywhere, and deterministic laws of physics work just fine. Everything is affected by some degree of randomness, but different degrees. Whether there is a significant amount of randomness in the workings of the brain isn't entirely clear.

 

About electrons "deciding" to move. Is that a truly random phenomenon? I know nothing about that topic, but is that a case in which absolutely NOTHING causes it to happen?

 

And, I believe someone said that randomness would only hinder free will. The reason that I believe that a universe absent of any random activity would be a universe with no free will, is that the future would be predetermined, would it not? And if the future is far predetermined, I don't see how our choices really exist.

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About electrons "deciding" to move. Is that a truly random phenomenon? I know nothing about that topic, but is that a case in which absolutely NOTHING causes it to happen?

 

Yes, that's the idea. It's not really "moving," per se, since particles like electrons don't actually have a location until they interact with something, they just have a function of probability vs. location, which is a consequence of their wave-like nature. They actually can't have a determinate location. Nothing causes it to happen.

 

And, I believe someone said that randomness would only hinder free will. The reason that I believe that a universe absent of any random activity would be a universe with no free will, is that the future would be predetermined, would it not? And if the future is far predetermined, I don't see how our choices really exist.

 

Well, you're making choices, are you not? So they do exist. The questions are:

1) Are those choices are predetermined or random?

2) What is "free will," exactly?

3) Which option, if any, represents (or at least allows) "free will?"

4) Does it matter?

 

You say predetermination seems to contradict free will. That's fine. But is randomness free will? If not, then what do you actually mean by "free will?" If it's not predetermination, and it's not randomness, then it's not anything, and you have to either adjust your definition or abandon it as a meaningless phrase.

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Yes, that's the idea. It's not really "moving," per se, since particles like electrons don't actually have a location until they interact with something, they just have a function of probability vs. location, which is a consequence of their wave-like nature. They actually can't have a determinate location. Nothing causes it to happen.

 

 

 

Well, you're making choices, are you not? So they do exist. The questions are:

1) Are those choices are predetermined or random?

2) What is "free will," exactly?

3) Which option, if any, represents (or at least allows) "free will?"

4) Does it matter?

 

You say predetermination seems to contradict free will. That's fine. But is randomness free will? If not, then what do you actually mean by "free will?" If it's not predetermination, and it's not randomness, then it's not anything, and you have to either adjust your definition or abandon it as a meaningless phrase.

 

On the subject of randomness being similar to free will, I suppose it's simply because I see randomness as an absence of determination. About everything else that you mentioned...Well, I don't know. I'll have to think about it.

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About electrons "deciding" to move. Is that a truly random phenomenon? I know nothing about that topic, but is that a case in which absolutely NOTHING causes it to happen?

 

Quantum behaviors are considered to be truly random by most scientists, that is, that they have no cause. I am a big fan of cause and effect, and find that statement anathema. There is no way to prove that it is uncaused, so they are making an assumption that is unprovable and has deep philosophical implications[/rant]

 

And, I believe someone said that randomness would only hinder free will. The reason that I believe that a universe absent of any random activity would be a universe with no free will, is that the future would be predetermined, would it not? And if the future is far predetermined, I don't see how our choices really exist.

 

But being deterministic, you can say that the choices you made are truly yours, and that you would make them again in the same circumstance, and that there is a reason you made them. Adding a bit of randomness (whether true randomness or pseudorandomness) would improve things a bit so that you are not completely predictable/able to be manipulated. But being totally random would be like if you were a big coin.

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Quantum behaviors are considered to be truly random by most scientists, that is, that they have no cause. I am a big fan of cause and effect, and find that statement anathema. There is no way to prove that it is uncaused, so they are making an assumption that is unprovable and has deep philosophical implications[/rant]

 

 

 

But being deterministic, you can say that the choices you made are truly yours, and that you would make them again in the same circumstance, and that there is a reason you made them. Adding a bit of randomness (whether true randomness or pseudorandomness) would improve things a bit so that you are not completely predictable/able to be manipulated. But being totally random would be like if you were a big coin.

 

Interesting...It makes a good bit of sense, I s'pose. So it's very arguable then?

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About electrons "deciding" to move. Is that a truly random phenomenon? I know nothing about that topic, but is that a case in which absolutely NOTHING causes it to happen?

 

And, I believe someone said that randomness would only hinder free will. The reason that I believe that a universe absent of any random activity would be a universe with no free will, is that the future would be predetermined, would it not? And if the future is far predetermined, I don't see how our choices really exist.

 

Not predetermined, it's the past examined as measured, with error.

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What makes free will possible is the human imagination. The imagination is not limited by cause and effect or probability. I can imagine winning all the lotteries while pitching a 200 mph fast ball. This has nothing to do with reality but is possible in the imagination.

 

Without the imagination, the brain and behavior would be like a machine that has programmed logic to remain within the natural laws of cause and affect and probability. This is necessary for survival in physical reality. Animals remain within this, with their behavior practical, predictable and optimized for reality. We call this selective advantage within the reality of the environment. But with humans our imagination allows us to break away from the natural laws of cause and affect and even probability. This second option allows us to step outside and make choices that don't have to align with nature. It is free will only in the sense of breaking away from nature or not.

 

On the good side, free will and imagination allows us to evolve behavior in the light of the physical laws. But on the down side it also allows behavior that is out of of touch with the logical consistency of natural laws. An animal will not eat rocks unless this served some logical selective purpose. But humans can use free will to eat rocks, even if it goes against any biological logic. It could come down to a circus stunt. The imagination can create it own non casual reality, then the ego can come up with some support logic based on this unrealistic or imaginary premise to help justify this action. Then we can act on that. The animal doesn't have this entire second step so its will is far less free from natural law.

 

Animals may also have imagination but it is wired into the casual laws of the brain. The gathering animal may look for food using a random search pattern using the laws of probability to find food. The human has a similar compulsion, but we can process this before we act and begin to formulate a logic for this plan of impulsive action. We may also further use the imagination and see finding a pot of gold in the imagination or we may see all the females cheering our ability to find food, during our random search. We get motivated by this extra step like this is real and search with more vigor. That extra drive we call will power with our inner logic and imagination giving us a direction that is somewhat unique to the person. We call this free will. But often these two steps are only free from the outside, within inner compulsion making the choice. The pot of gold could appear spontaneously in the imagination from the unconscious to help motivate the conscious mind so it can express will power and free will.

.

Edited by pioneer
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If you look at quantum mechanics, which explains the behavior of things at a subatomic level, there are lots of very random things that go on. (And lots of very confusing things that happen.)

 

However, even if it's random, is it truly free will or just randomness?

Does randomness exist, or is the term "random" simply a way of saying, "we don't know how to determine it yet"?

 

OR is free will classified with the state of being, which would be next to randomness; and I am saying randomness acts as an unseen aspect of the universe that is not allowed to be determined. That would be a true random. However, I would like to disregard many scientific literatures that state something is "random." I think that we haven't understood how to explain their physical action yet.

Edited by Genecks
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On the issue of randomness, I can't help but to suspect that the randomness comes down to causes that are "too small to measure" and thus, must be dealt with as if they are random to be dealt with at all - but that is a personal bias and I also respect the fact that quantum physicists seem to think otherwise, so I can't draw a conclusion on that one.

 

 

About free will, a fully deterministic universe or one with random quantum factors both argue against objective free will - in that either "clock work gears" or "the roll of quantum dice" result in our decisions, not "free will" from within us somewhere.

 

Personally, I think of free will as a matter of perspective, in that I see it as:

 

1) We are deterministic "thinking machines" configured to find the best solution, any quantum factors may impact how that configuration came to be, but are small enough not to play a major role in how that configuration operates.

 

Think of that as, circuit boards created and tested for 'fitness' through permutations on the previous model, which over many generations may have their current designs influenced by quantum factors... but the circuits themselves operate deterministically with minimal quantum factors.

 

2) It is impossible for any problem solving system within a larger system to "observe itself" completely, or predict the greater deterministic system to create various proposed deterministic paradoxes.

 

If you wanted to "know" your own clockwork of gears, you'd need yet another set of gears and memory to observe your basic gears and memory, and then the "you" has grown, and you need yet more to observe those secondary ones as well.

 

Likewise, if you had a computer to "deterministically calculate the future" and it said you would walk out and get hit by a car, you'd refuse to do that, which is often seen as a paradox. In actuality, the computer simply didn't have the means to take it's own existence and impact into account, so it predicted the world as if it didn't exist.

 

3) As we are configured to find the best solution to any given problem, (and naturally, the term 'best solution' is subjective to our configuration as well) and believing we are deterministic without free will seems to hamper our ability to find the best solutions, it appears the best solution is to act as if we have free will anyway.

 

I don't see this as a self inflicted delusion, but a matter of practicality, and that free will can be seen as a matter of perspective. Since (point 2) we can't observe ourselves fully, from our perspective, free will exists, and aids our ability to solve problems, which is our core directive.

 

So I guess the short way to say it is:

 

from our subjective perspective, we may as well have free will.

from an objective "outside view" of the universe, we have none at all.

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Random is part a fact of nature. and part the limitations of knowledge and understanding. For example, if we have a black box that outputs something, without knowing what is in the box, we can still collect data and make statistical predictions. If we open the box and inside is a logical mechanism, the original perception of random was just that. The value of statistics is we don't have to open box but can correlate the closed box empirically. From the point of view of vanity it is easier to insist it is random than admit it is probably random because we are ignorant of how the box actually works. Of these two alternative the first looks more authoritative.

 

An interesting application of free will is lying. The natural laws are sort of the truth of nature. They are a combination of logic and statistics. The apple will fall in the wind storm in this zone. With lying we can go outside that and say the apple went into space. Without free will, we would have to report the factual and truthful observation to the best of our understanding since only these are in touch with cause and affect and probability. But with free will and the imagination we can make things up.

 

On the positive side, the imagination can also make things up that are useful. It is only after the fact, that we are able to apply logic and statistics. For example, before Einstein began to ponder relativity, what type of formula or computer simulation would be needed to spawn this? The logic and statistics only come into affect in such cases with 20/20 hindsight. The human imagination is not under this limitation so it can do extra stuff that computers and math can not do. We go back later and add the math. Others read the report and think the logic came first. The brain must have another type of logic that is more advanced, which also may be what generates the free will phenomena or the ability to act in ways that are not always totally predictable or logical.

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It's been a while since I've replied to this thread, so I've got a lot of catching up to do :P

 

Paldren, I think your post was the most interesting (personally). Things can appear to be random, although the actual randomness is far more likely to simply be a deterministic clockwork beyond our understanding. Also what you said about the paradox of a "future calculating" computer was very interesting, and answered a question of mine actually. Back when I first came up with the ideas presented in this thread, I thought to my self that it's very possible for the future to be determined through calculations in a deterministic universe. Then the question came to me "What if a being knew everything, calculated the future, then chose to change the said future?"

 

But your computer-paradox statement fixed that for me.

 

Everyone else that posted, sorry I can't reply to you specifically. But I'll keep reading and (hopefully) replying to this thread.

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  • 1 month later...

free will, in and of itself, is no more than the abillity or opportunity to decide upon a particular response to any given condition, environment, or, circumstance, etc. etc. etc..

it is not necessarily, however, a decision to act or not to act, absent of some outside influence. it is not irrational to conclude, given this reality, that free will is subject to " Newton's Law " given that it is an active term. would you agree?

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the difference between freewill and will? interesting. i suppose it could be asserted that freewill is of an individuals own bidding without coersion or influence. where-as, " will " might be subject to any number of considerations that prompt an individuals action or activity.

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i wonder if you don't mean your intent is to lead a rich happy life. surely we all have intentions to do or become something. But, is not will the deciding factor as to whether or not we actually carry out those desires? further, i suppose my point would be that now that will as become relevant to the outcome, is that will ever truly freely done or is it constrained by the will of others to influence the resulting outcome. thus, if so, was freewill ever an actual or realistic reality in the first place. this, of course, returns us to my original question. is freewill a delusion?

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